Clamp down on poor service delivery

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pietermaritzburg - When government said they were serious about rooting out non-delivery from its departments, they meant business. 

Just before lunch time at Northdale hospital on Wednesday, staff was not expecting any visitors when the Deputy Minister of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency Dina Pule, Premier Zweli Mkize and Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo walked in for a surprise inspection. 

They were greeted by despondent patients, some of whom were waiting in queues since 5am. Complaints varied from long queues at the pharmacy and staff shortages. 

One of the patients, Ayesha Mohammed, said she had arrived at the hospital soon after 6am but was still waiting for attention two hours later. 

"Many of us arrive at the break of dawn, just to make sure that we get seats because we know the wait will be a long one -- and we might have to come back again tomorrow," she said. 

Pule, who could be seen talking to patients, asking them about their experience at the hospital, said the reason for the surprise visit was to see how patients were being treated in government hospitals, and to see first-hand the challenges facing staff.

She was in Pietermaritzburg to outline her department's expectations and its plans to filter down monitoring and evaluation at provincial level. 

The Pietermaritzburg visit was the second of its kind. Pule visited Mpumalanga last week and similar meetings are planned with the governments of the Free State, Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

Pule, is one of three ministers in President Jacob Zuma's office -- including Collins Chabane and Trevor Manuel -- tasked with ensuring that government's promises to the people are fulfilled.

During the visit, she was pleased with the cleanness of the hospital. However, she said the problem of long queues, drug unavailability and staff shortages was not on, vowing to take up the matter with the relevant departments. 

Many such visits to other departments across the country would be undertaken, she said. 

Hospital matron Jessica Webster said she was happy the MEC could see the challenges the hospital faced.

"I'm glad the people from the national government came. We are under a lot of stress because of a staff shortage. There are not enough facilities and we need equipment. They listened to us and said she [Pule] would take the matter up with the provincial and national health managers," said Webster.

Mkhize said they wanted to change the mindset of all public servants so that they can be accountable.

"We need public servants who are dedicated and capable, and who care for the needs of citizens," he said. 

Meanwhile, the KwaZulu-Natal government will soon undergo performance management appraisals. 

As part of the project, the provincial government has provided the Presidency with a programme of all planned developmental projects, which will cover key priorities of government. 

MECs will also provide quarterly reports on the work they are doing, what issues they face whilst working and plans on how they intend resolving those issues. 

Pule says this system will help to give early warning signs when things are not going right.

Plans also include monitoring special projects that provinces already have in place, such as the Nerve Centre. The provincial Nerve Centre provides an automated and integrated information management system, complete with reporting and analytics, dashboards and geographic information system (GIS) mapping to monitor and evaluate government's key performance indicators and to promote transparency and anti-corruption.

All components and services are managed from a single point at the Nerve Centre, reducing the administrative effort for maintenance of applications, users and security.

It also monitors the province's performance on projects that are currently under way and groups them by region and time frames.

Pule was impressed by the Nerve Centre strategy, saying her ministry will assess its impact and how it could be rolled out to other provinces. 

She said programmes like these enhance focus on the delivery of government services, as well as strengthen government-to-citizen/employee/business organisations and government-to-government relationships. 

Pule's visit was in line with President Jacob Zuma's promise in his State of the Nation Address, where he indicated that ministers would be going to the provinces to outline the details of what needed to be done in the identified priority areas.

Government had devised a model that would ensure all levels of government are held accountable.

"We are confident that this endeavour will help government reward good performance and detect bad performance as early as possible to ensure that corrective measures are implemented," said Pule.

Although the ruling party outlined creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods, education, health, rural development, food security and land reform and the fight against crime and corruption as their top priorities, Zuma has promised to speed up service delivery.

Pule, who was worried about the recent public protests over the lack of delivery of essential services, hoped her ministry would help resolve this.

There have often been protests in the country over the perceived slow pace of delivery of basic municipal services such as water, electricity and housing.

"The performance evaluation system will oversee the quality of work done and the impact of service delivery ...That way, there is an efficient unit that will monitor progress of projects and ensure that the integrated flagship projects and interdepartmental collaboration is continuously tracked to yield the desired outcomes." 

Mkhize was optimistic, saying this will be part of the strategy to ensure service delivery and accountability, and serve as a bridging gap between strategic provincial objectives and the execution thereof.

The system will help to link objectives to tangible outcomes in terms of information on key performance indicators and programme outputs across departments and local government institutions, he said, adding that it will support fact-based decisions needed to deliver better, more proactive services to the public.