Speeding up service delivery for all

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

By Communications Minister Faith Muthambi

Most people have an opinion on service delivery because it affects everyone.  As with most things, people only tend to speak or think about it only when there are challenges.  The water shortages in Gauteng are a case in point.  

However, service delivery is more than just the provision of housing, electricity, water, sanitation, refuses removal and municipal services.  It is about providing the best possible service to every South African. 

The government has long realised that effective service delivery is a catalyst for change.  Things that many of us take for granted, such as a home, electricity and running water, are the springboard for individuals and communities to better their lives.

In this term of the government, service delivery will be ramped up. President Jacob Zuma has established an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on service delivery consisting of several key ministries. The committee has been tasked to ensure a reduction in service delivery backlogs and to accelerate water, sanitation, energy, roads and housing infrastructure delivery.

Last month’s Presidential Local Government Summit laid the foundation to strengthen municipalities while ensuring radical improvements in service delivery at local government level. The "Back to Basics" approach adopted at the summit will ensure municipalities perform their basic responsibilities. 

It is said that great change begins with simple actions. Back to basics is about getting the fundamentals right. 

Critics might argue that the approach is an admission by the government that service delivery has failed.   Nothing could be further from the truth.  Since 1994, successive administrations have targeted providing better services.   

Undoubtedly there are major challenges but, given our past of exclusion based on race, this was always going to be the case.  We should never forget that local government structures that catered for only one section of the population had to be overhauled.

Progress since 1994 has been mixed. Therefore, our immediate task now is to build on this foundation by working harder and smarter.

Despite these challenges, South Africa is a better place to live in.  The recent Non-financial Census of Municipalities by Statistics SA shows an expansion of services.   It also reflects that inroads into levels of poverty have been made.  

Furthermore, it shows that there were 372 101 new water connections last year, bringing the number of households with access to basic water to just below 11.8 million. Electricity connections have also increased with 227 381 new electricity connections, bringing total connections to 9.976 million.

By last year, the number of household with access to sewage and sanitation services increased to just below 10 million, compared to 9.4 million in 2012. Last year, 8.4 million households enjoyed refuse removal compared to 8 million in 2012.

When placed into context, the figures show that the provision of basic services has virtually doubled across the board since 2002. They reflect undeniable progress and show a government that is hard at work to improve the lives of our people and move South Africa forward.

As encouraging as these figures are, there is room for more improvement.  The first port of call is to improve communication between councillors and communities. The status quo where some municipalities fail to convene izimbizo (gatherings) and fail to update their respective communities on planned developments or projects must change.  The government is committed to speaking to communities and working with them to bring about change.

We dare not let the devastating legacy of the past define us. Change and a better tomorrow reside in all of us.  For us, the drive to deliver services better and faster is never-ending. 

During the recently concluded Public Service Month, government looked inward and we reflected on our ability to deliver quality services that meet the expectations of the public in line with government’s Batho Pele principles.

Batho Pele is a Sesotho phrase meaning “People First”, it embodies a public service that strives for excellence in service delivery and places a premium on continuous improvement.

We are a government at work.  We are committed to improving the lives of all and we will not rest until every citizen receives services that are consistent with our democratic values. 

We call on South Africans to scrutinise government decisions that affect them, hold public officials to account and ensure service delivery is fair and not prone to abuse. We need partnerships between government, citizens and civil society to better deal with issues that affect people daily if we are to move South Africa forward.


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