Frontline Service Delivery Monitoring in the Public Service: DPME; Public Service Month DPSA Report

Public Service and Administration, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

04 November 2015
Chairperson: Ms B Mabe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) presented its report on the 2015 Public Service Month programme, which aimed to identify and remove service delivery blockages, unblock red tape, plan for the year ahead, and rededicate the DPSA to Batho Pele principles and service delivery improvement. This particular report also provided feedback and progress made by the 2014 public service-wide consultative meetings and engagements with the frontline public servants. Some Members questioned the overall value of the programme and thought that the kinds of points identified in this programme, and given in illustrative examples should in fact have been identified much earlier, by officials who should be doing regular oversight. They were concerned that disability mainstreaming still remained such a challenge, despite the structures and policies that aimed to achieve this. Members particularly wanted to know if people were actually being held accountable for acting on recommendations. They asked what lessons had been learned and how programmes from the Centres for Innovation had been incorporated. The IT system correction was of major importance. Members wondered what the main reasons were for low staff morale and suggested that part of the problem may be lack of leadership. Members called for the full report, and questioned the measuring tools used for effectiveness. They asked if comparisons had been done on salaries between public and private sectors, what was the state of the buildings assessed as not compliant, and where the reports on the 2014 visits could be found. They wondered if there had been engagement with communities to determine the effectiveness of the programme, and wanted to know exactly how many sites were visited.  was a step in the right direction. However, he was concerned that this was seen as a one-event special event, and felt that not only should it be more frequent, but also that there should be checks to see if other things were done to address problems – such as another day set aside to assess feedback. The purpose of service delivery targets was to assist the public. He asked whether, and how often, there was engagement with communities to determine effectiveness. He noted that eight sites were visited in Limpopo, but asked how many, in total, there were in Limpopo. Members asked how Community Worker Development was managed and made the point that many of the visits indicated that maintenance rather than capital spending was needed, which rather indicated bad planning. The Chairperson noted that some of the questions would have to stand over for a written reply from the Minister, who had been unable to attend the meeting, and when Members questioned why, it was noted that this was in fact a Ministerial project. However, the DPSA outlined its mandate and indicated how the programme was built and what it linked into, and Members asked that the improvement plans must be made public. It was suggested that in the following year the departments who were the worst performers must be invited to present to the Committee, and explain why they had no service delivery plans.

The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) outlined the Presidential Frontline Service Delivery Programme, which was aimed at strengthening the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) practices of field-level managers and their supporting decision makers in head offices. It illustrated the value of on-site monitoring and noted that the findings were always presented to top management who would then be accountable for follow up, and the DPME itself also conducted follow up visits and presented half-yearly reports. Members asked how the programme had started and been run, asked if DPME was involved in assessing disability mainstreaming, what had been noted, and what issues had been identified in 2014 and actually addressed and improved by now. Members asked for clarity on the role of DPME and whether it could raise issues proactively. They questioned if complaints could not move to e-government and if tools used by the DPME were used also in the complaint management systems. Members were concerned that areas of duplication, limitations and potential improvements should be identified. They asked how DPME would ensure that facilities were monitored on time, who selected monitors, and whether the existence of several streams of monitoring may not be confusing, and suggested the use of checklists. Members also wanted to know to what extent DPME liaised with other departments and could try to synergise efforts. Some Members were very pleased to note that a very simple, user-friendly and effective tool had been created, but asked how Batho Pele principles had been incorporated, particularly provision of accurate information to customers. They questioned if sufficient resources had been made available to achieve the aims. Members agreed that it would be useful to have a workshop session informing Members of comparative frameworks in other countries.

Meeting report

Public Service Month Report:  Department of Public Service & Administration (DPSA) Briefing
Ms Veronica Motalane, Chief Director, Department of Public Service and Administration, presented the report of the Department (or DPSA) on the “2015 Public Service Month (PSM) Programme – Taking Services to the People”. She gave a background to this programme, and it was noted that this was the first presentation of its kind. This programme essentially aimed to identify and remove service delivery blockages, helped to unblock red tape, planned for the year ahead, and rededicated the DPSA to Batho Pele principles and service delivery improvement. The 2015 PSM was significant in that it sought to provide feedback and progress made by the 2014 public service-wide consultative meetings and engagements by the late Minister for Public Service and Administration, Minister Collins Chabane, with the frontline public servants, on the concept of “Reinventing the way public service works.” (see attached presentation for further details)

The Chairperson referred to slide 20, bullet point 2, that noted that “Disability mainstreaming remain [sic] a major challenge in some of the visited sites, inappropriate toilets, counter heights, etc.” She wanted to know if this point referred to disabled members of the public. She asked if the war could be won on making public service buildings more accessible for the disabled.

Ms Motalane replied that she was referring to members of the public. She thought that the “war” would be won, because the Department was being evaluated on that point. There were structures of governance and policies that ensured mainstreaming, and issues related to disability mainstreaming were identified and taken to the managers where issues had been noted

The Chairperson referred to the issue of inappropriate toilets and then referred to a picture on slide 17,  which showed a portable toilet. She said that she was not convinced that a disabled person would be able to use a portable toilet. She asked what lessons had been learnt from the programme. She asked how the programmes from the unit within DPSA's Centre for Innovation had been incorporated as it seemed as if the programmes recommended from the Centre for Innovation were avoided and not incorporated into what the Department actually was doing. She suggested that as the Department moved forward, the Centres for Innovation would be important to incorporate and that their recommended programmes would be able to provide immediate solutions for challenges experienced by the Department itself.

The Chairperson felt that the IT system was a major concern and if the Department could not correct the system between now and April 2016, the issue would never be resolved. She asked why there was low staff morale, in areas such as Polokwane, Limpopo Province, and if it could be caused by low salaries or was due to working conditions; it was not always about money. It was a major concern and programmes should be set up to motivate staff.

Mr Mashwahle Diphofa, Director General, DPSA, said that the Centre for Innovation was the DPSA’s sister entity and the DPSA would make sure that it strengthened the innovations from the Centre. Mr Diphofa gave an example of lessons learned, by citing a visit by DPSA to a school in the Western Cape in 2014, in which there were 80% female staff, but the school had many issues, including gangsterism in the local vicinity. The principal complained of lack of support from the South African Police Service (SAPS) and DPSA promised to take up the issue. The local police station claimed to have insufficient vehicles to visit in response to a call from the school, which was clearly incorrect, according to the register, although it was true that some vehicles needed to be fixed. DPSA could address the issue on site, through interaction. Public service month really showed that many of the “issues” were in fact simply misunderstandings that could be clarified through interaction, and that resolution did not always require more money or plans.

Mr Diphofa noted that there was a government technology officer to deal with IT issues, coordinated by DPSA.   

Ms A Lovemore (DA) asked if the Committee could receive the presentations beforehand in order to have adequate time to prepare feedback. She was struggling to understand the need for the programme. The programme seemed similar to a television series, titled “Undercover Boss,” where a CEO would work as an undercover trainee or apprentice in the frontline, in order to experience the issues on the ground. However, the DPSA should surely already be aware of the issues people faced in the public service, such as dilapidated buildings, no disabled toilets and inadequate computers. Most people who went to a Home Affairs office or a police station could have told the Department everything that had been presented today. She was concerned about the cost and wondered who was doing the inspections. She wanted the full report on the Service Month. She asked if improvement plans were drawn up by each department or if it was the DPSA's function to deliver an improvement plan, and who would follow up on this.

Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) stressed that it was important to see the impact of the Public Service Month programme.  Some individual cases within the presentation looked like success stories, but then the presentation also mentioned the vast size of the public service, implying that the delivery of success stories was minimal. It seemed as if the success stories highlighted should in fact be covered as part of senior managers' daily or monthly responsibilities. He asked if a Public Service Month had any relevance, since picking up on dilapidated infrastructure or discovering that there is poor documents and record management should be part of normal duties. He also wondered if discovery then led to those responsible being held accountable. In many passages of public service workplaces, there were old brown files lying around, tied up with rope. He asked if the necessary training and equipment was being given to resolve these risks and issues. He questioned, therefore, both the effectiveness of Public Service Month and the measurements used to evaluate the effectiveness.

Mr van der Westhuizen then asked when last a study was conducted to compare the salaries of public service employees with private sector employees. Studies from time to time had shown that the public sector salaries were generally not unfavourable, except for certain specialist positions, where the public service might struggle to attract quality staff, such as Mathematics and Science teachers. He too wanted to ask what the cause was of low morale, if not low salaries and added that staff morale was driven by the level of leadership in the Department, so if leaders were enthusiastic and instilled a sense of importance, value and recognition, then it would provide motivation for other staff members. He asked what methods were used and if they were measured to understand low staff morale.

Mr S Motau (DA) asked if the state of the dilapidated buildings warranted any being condemned or rehabilitated. He would assume that the buildings would be on the register of national assets of the Department of Public Works, with whom the DPSA must work on this. He asked if the 2014 frontline service visit (listed on page 22) had produced a report.

Mr Diphofa responded that in many cases, it was not about condemning the building, but perhaps only painting, which was not costly and could be done. He said those running public services had the capacity to do so, and said that in the past community supporters would mobilise to maintain public service facilities.

Mr M Ntombela (ANC) said that, in his opinion, there was nothing more effective in motivating public servants than personal interaction with senior management, so the Public Service Month exercise was a step in the right direction. However, he was concerned that this was seen as a one-event special event, and felt that not only should it be more frequent, but also that there should be checks to see if other things were done to address problems – such as another day set aside to assess feedback. The purpose of service delivery targets was to assist the public. He asked whether, and how often, there was engagement with communities to determine effectiveness. He noted that eight sites were visited in Limpopo, but asked how many, in total, there were in Limpopo as this would indicate how effective this was. He asked what was being done about proper administration systems not being available in the Free State Province.

Mr Diphofa responded that there were many sites in a province. Although he said that “all the sites of service delivery” (including cleaning, police and medical public services as well as Home Affairs sites) were visited, eight were reported upon in the presentation.

Ms R Lesoma (ANC) referred to actual examples of areas visited by the Department in 2014, saying that this illustrated that maintenance, and not capital budgets, were needed. This issue showed poor management. In addition, she questioned if 2014’s programme showed ‘good value for money’. When the Minister of Public Service and Administration had attended outreach programmes, this raised awareness of what needed to be followed up. IT systems were highlighted, and the Director General must give priority to this. She asked how officials would be realigned. She asked how Community Worker development was managed and improved, since the 2014 report showed that volunteers needed to be better managed.

The Chairperson noted that the Minister had apologised for being unable to attend this meeting, due to a bereavement, and delegates could not answer political questions, which would be left for the Minister to respond to in writing. She stressed that the IT systems should be taken up seriously by the Minister. She asked if IT systems were mentioned in the DPSA’s budget review.

The Deputy Director General, DPSA, said that it was mentioned in the budget review.

Ms Lovemore told the Chairperson that she does not understand why the officials could not answer some of the questions, unless this was a Ministerial programme, where the Minister gave directives and assumed control. If not, then this was surely a Departmental programme where the officials could respond. She was worried that if answers were not given now, the Committee would not be able to follow up. She would not like to see the Committee receiving presentations only and officials not being answerable.

The Chairperson asked the DPSA who decided and took ownership of the monthly themes, for example, where one month was dedicated to education.

Mr Diphofa confirmed that the designation of September as Public Service Month was a ministerial decision many years ago, in consultation with Cabinet. On an annual basis, there were processes of engagement on what the focus should be in each year, and that would be approved by the Minister. The programme was not limited to the DPSA alone.

The Chairperson acknowledged that while the DPSA provided support, the presentation dealt with was the Minister’s programme.

Ms Lovemore responded that a report and improvement plans were still needed. She doubted that the Minister would be able to answer the Committee’s questions as he did not personally deal with the programme. She remarked that the lack of response was a “cop out.”

Mr Diphofa said that the Public Service Act specified the mandate of the Minister of Public Service and Administration, and said that the role of the DPSA was to provide support to the Minister. For example, public service regulations required the DPSA to formulate a service delivery improvement plan. Individual departments produced their own service delivery improvement plans, but the DPSA could influence what went into the plans. The DPSA delegates present at this meeting had provided guidelines to other departments, which were reported quarterly to Parliament, and outstanding plans were indicated. Because of this ongoing other cooperation, the Public Service Month provided the DPSA with an opportunity to insist on improvement in service delivery improvement plans. In addition, it allowed the DPSA to experience the issues that were captured into the reports. The Minister would then inform Cabinet of the progress made. DPSA raised issues, in its report, of what it recommended should be built into the improvement plans for the future programmes. However, the issues raised did not adequately present the totality of government’s performance. In the next week, the third Batho Pele Excellence Awards would be held, where recognition would be given to departments their officials for high performance – and he named some of the categories. Two thirds of entities audited would received unqualified audit reports, but DPSA focused not on the positives so much as areas of concern that would be addressed by the improvement plans.  

Ms Lovemore responded that service delivery improvement plans were not made available to the public. She had looked on various websites for improvement plans, including the DPSA 's own website and that of SAPS. She came across minutes, on the Parliamentary Monitoring Group website, relating to a 2007 overview by the DPSA on what had been done as a result of a service delivery improvement plan, but in fact the initial plan had not been made available.

The Chairperson said this was a concern if the plans were not on the website and nowhere to be found.

Mr Diphofa replied that each department had its own improvement plans, but what he understood from Ms Lovemore’s request was that the documents should be made public.

The Chairperson asked if Mr Diphofa if he would ensure, with other departments, that the improvement plans were made public.

Ms Lesoma said that she was not sure whether the DPSA website had anything to do with the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), but this website was outdated. She suggested that at the beginning of 2016, the Committee should invite presentations from the five worst performing departments, including the Departments of Water and Sanitation, Environmental Affairs, and Housing who did not have any service delivery improvement plans.

The Chairperson reiterated the points made by Committee members that the DPSA should not wait for September each year to conduct such visit, but actively make time, throughout the year, to visit frontline services and key service delivery points and then immediately resolve issues.

Mr Diphofa agreed and added that this presentation in fact only covered what the DPSA had done during September, not what had been done for the rest of the year, and he assured the Committee that these kinds of visits were not limited to September alone, but that was the month in which they were spot-lighted.

Mr Motau said the overall input by Mr Diphofa was very useful to what the Committee was trying to achieve in this meeting. However, he reiterated that line management should do the job of inspection and it should not take the Director General to discover that a vehicle at a police station needed repair. Line managers should take responsibility and there should be consequence management, which would perhaps result in public service month being reinterpreted.

Frontline Service Delivery Monitoring (FSDM) Programme: Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) briefing
Ms Bernadette Leon, Head: Presidential Frontline Service Delivery (FSD) programme, DPME, said that the FSDM initiative was aimed at strengthening the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) practices of field-level managers and their supporting decision makers in head offices. The intention was not to cover all facilities, but to demonstrate the value of on-site monitoring to selected types of facilities or sectors. The DPME anticipated that monitoring findings may not be acted upon, which was why the findings were presented to top management of these departments, and why there were re-visits made to some facilities by the DPME in order to track progress. Full details of the programme were then conveyed, as set out in the attached document.

The Chairperson asked for how long the programme had been conducted.

Ms Leon replied that the programme started in June 2011, in two provinces, and then from 2012 the rest of the nine provinces were addressed.

The Chairperson then asked if the DPME had been involved in assessing the issue of disability mainstreaming in public facilities. She said that the DPME’s role was to monitor services, yet there were still poor services available to the disabled, such as unfavourable portable toilets. She stressed that she did not want to talk about hygiene, but rather about access for the disabled.

Ms Leon said that disability mainstreaming was monitored actively. The DPME had observed neglect of facilities for the disabled. Ramps and specialised toilets needed to be constructed, but this required money to be set aside, and since many facilities had a long list of infrastructural issues needing to be address, it happened that disability facilities were not prioritised.

Ms Lesoma wanted to know what issues, as raised to the DPME by the Committee in 2014, had in fact been addressed and improved. She asked that areas monitored, and issues from those areas, should be specified. She asked whether DPME merely put together information, or if it also have power to raise challenges of “lesser import” which were often overlooked. She also asked how the Portfolio Committee could assist with these.

Ms Lesoma referred to the report on “Taking Public Service Month to the People” and said she was sure that there were in fact complaint management systems in local municipalities. She suggested that perhaps these systems had to move towards e-government models, for better monitoring and quick referral, which was a more detailed administrative matter. She asked if tools used by the DPME were incorporated into the complaint management systems. Committee Members might not need an immediate response to a complaint, but continuous feedback should be given. She stressed that areas of duplication, limitations and potential improvements should also be identified.

Mr Ntombela asked how DPME could ensure that the 678 facilities would be monitored on time. He wanted to know if the choice of community development assistance was kept discretionary. He asked why complaints management was at such poor level, and if the DPME considered it successful.

Ms Leon noted that there was discretion given to the Premiers as to who would be the monitoring officers. In some provinces there were quite large service delivery teams, working with DPSA. In Gauteng, it was decided that more focus would be given to the Community Development Workers' programme, where supervisors trained monitors. It was important that those monitoring something like a Social Services office were respected for their seniority. Other provinces were recommended to use Community Development Workers too – they provided assistance, but not training.

Ms Leon admitted that over the years complaints management had been neglected. She requested that the parliamentary committees should assist with increasing the strategic management up to desirable levels by asking departments whom they monitored what types of complaints they received and if the outcomes were reported to the public. If assessments of complaints were published, departments should take this as an opportunity to assess themselves.

Mr Motau questioned the DPMEs role in monitoring other departments' M&E, and said that it seemed that the DPME could not force other departments to do monitoring and evaluation, but could advise and facilitate. He stressed that M&E should be addressed at the ground level, at the line management function. Furthermore workers could receive bonuses for doing their work, instead of relying on DPME.

Mr van der Westhuizen said that he had said, earlier in the year, that when oversight bodies formulated reports there must be some agreement as to what they were looking into.  For example, in order to determine the quality of service at a school, a monitor should have a checklist, and look at certain aspects. The reports presented by the DPME seemed to have highlighted specific aspects such as signage and cleanliness. While these aspects were important, the whole “business” of something like a school was not signage; a visitor might get lost but students did know where to go. He wondered if the impact of inspections was not lessened by different people looking at different aspects. He noted that when he served on the Portfolio Committee on Labour, it had its own very specific checklist as to what would be monitored at workplaces. He feared that using different monitoring entities with different priorities would confuse management, and that money would be taken away from the primary priorities of service facilities. He asked to what extent the DPME liaised with other departments and to what extent it was synergising evaluations, so that all departments were approaching this in the same way, as oppposed to internal quality management processes by the departments.

Ms Lovemore congratulated DPME, saying the very simplicity of the tool utilised for evaluation made it sophisticated, and she thought that the three contributions from citizens, staff and monitors were an excellent mix. The proposed methodology for ratings was simple, easy to understand and user-friendly. She reiterated issues around accountability of the Minister and asked if the reports would get tabled at Cabinet. She referred to the standard of service delivery, because the Batho Pele principles said that customers were entitled to accurate information about the service that they would receive. However customers measured services against what they expected not based on what should be available. She asked for explanation of acronyms in the presentation.

Ms Leon responded that DLTC stood for Driving License Testing Centre. MCCC stood for Municipal Customer Care Centres, introduced in 2013. She said that when assessing service delivery, eight key performance areas were brought in line with Batho Pele principles. Provision of accurate information was dealt with, under “dignified treatment” and stressed that information should be given to customers to enable them to understand the issues. DPME asked people whether they understood customer information on facilities, and the response was generally positive. The DPME's M&E Frontline Service Delivery Monitoring Programme started in 2011, and by March 2012 the first report was tabled in Cabinet. Reports would be released annually, in March. An overall findings report was sent to Cabinet and each of the eight departments monitored would get their own reports, which were then presented by the DPME to senior management of each department. The mid-year report had just been completed, which was an internal process where the DPME would present findings to senior managers of departments. Every province would also get a report, which could be utilised by Premiers to drive the information provided.

Ms Leon responded to how DPME monitored in relation to individual monitoring by departments, and said that the monitoring requirements were not invented, but were stipulated in policies or laws. Departments had standards to meet on quality of service delivery and the DPME monitored according to those standards. The health monitoring system was extremely advanced, and was also observed properly by the DPME. Sometimes DPME would push departments to set standards, and if they were not meeting standards already in place in terms of their monitoring and evaluation, then DPME would encourage them to improve that standard.

Ms Nolwazi Gasa, Deputy Director General, DPME, said that e-government had remained a challenge, due to IT infrastructure. When DLTCs were visited, there were limited electronic resources to assist people. Recently, there was a lot of media coverage on what Gauteng aimed to do to bring about e-government, and DPME was very interested in that. The DPME saw the voice of the citizen as critical. looks at with interest. For the DPME, the voice of the citizen was regarded as critical. The Minister had worked hard, lobbying Cabinet, the National Treasury and other sectors, to resource the strategies of the DPME. She raised the DPME’s need for more employees, to increase functionality. She referred to a two-pronged approach, by building a particular department, located at the Presidency, at the centre and maximising its strategic position. New strategies should be formulated and reported on, whilst simultaneously building departments from the bottom up. The fact that departments were not at this level showed the need for DPME. It did engage with other departments to ensure that there was not duplication. There was a Presidency Coordinating Council where all Premiers met and on occasion DPME would present on work conducted in provinces. Another mechanism was that of performance agreements that indicated how Ministers would be held accountable.

The Chairperson suggested the need for a separate meeting to discuss M&E, and then enforce what is discussed.

Ms Gasa asked if the DPME could be invited to a workshop session to inform Committee members of frameworks adopted by M&E governance sectors in other countries.

The meeting was adjourned.    


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