Batho Pele Audits and Citizen Satisfaction Surveys: briefing by Public Service Commission

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Meeting report

Dr N Maharaj (Commissioner, Public Service Commission) said that the Commission had met with the Committee in March this year, and would now provide an overview of all the Batho Pele principles that have been evaluated

PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
25 May 2007

BATHO PELE AUDITS AND CITIZEN SATISFACTION SURVEYS: BRIEFING BY PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

Chairperson: Mr P Gomomo (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Public Service Commission presentation on Batho Pele Audits and Citizen Satisfaction Surveys (CSS)
Public Service Commission seven reports on Batho Pele Audits and Citizen Satisfaction Surveys (available later at www.psc.gov.za)

SUMMARY
The Public Service Commission conducted six years of study into the Batho Pele principles and presented their findings to the Committee. Findings had been obtained from interaction with departments as well as their clients. A major problem highlighted was the failure to implement the Batho Pele principles. This lack of compliance was caused to a large extent by a lack of skills, the absence of service standards and a general failure to link Batho Pele with organisational strategy.

The Committee expressed their frustration at their inability to play a more decisive role in ensuring implementation, and also the lack of involvement by members of other portfolio committees. The PSC research was seen as a milestone development in directing the way forward and the role of Parliament in ensuring compliance with Batho Pele, was discussed. The general tone of the presentation by the PSC was that progress had indeed been made, but that this progress was very slow. The PSC and the Committee agreed that the bar should constantly be raised, so that the poor and rural populations could benefit from enhanced service delivery as quickly as possible.

MINUTES
Briefing by the Public Service Commission (PSC )
Dr Norman Maharaj (Commissioner, Public Service Commission) noted that the Commission had met with the Committee in March this year, and would now provide an overview of all the Batho Pele principles that have been evaluated. The Commission had looked at the historical context of evaluations carried out since 2000. Dr Maharaj referred to the White Paper on Transformation of Public Service Delivery, which had been formulated during the tenure of the Minister of Social Development, Dr Zola Skweyiya. That White Paper had been very well-received at the time, but few people had actually gone back to read the Paper in its entirety. When the paper was released Minister Skweyiya had emphasised that there was no time to lose. Both the Committee and the PSC were aware that despite what the Minister had said, progress had been very slow.

Dr Maharaj referred to the Citizen Satisfaction Survey (CSS) that formed part of the current presentation. His own experience had shown that the poor are not very demanding, and that all they want is for their dignity to be respected. This should be borne in mind when looking at the CSS, as the level of expectation of citizens is an important factor. Many departments did not have clear service standards, and Dr Maharaj had a problem with surveys undertaken in the absence of service standards, as it became difficult to judge. The overview that would be presented, should be seen in this context.

Mr Mashwahle Diphofa (Deputy Director-General, Public Service Commission) began the presentation. The findings were largely based on information received from departments, through interaction such as completion of questionnaires and interviews. Both components of the presentation relate to Batho Pele, and the one focuses on how departments feel they have progressed, while the other focuses on citizens’ view of this progress. Seven reports were looked at and an attempt was made to condense all seven reports. The Committee might feel the need to request more detailed information. He added that all seven reports had been tabled in Parliament.

Mr Diphofa said that the mandate of the PSC includes the investigation, monitoring and evaluation of the performance of the public service, as well as the issuing of recommendations. In terms of this mandate, the PSC has since 2000 been evaluating the implementation of the White Paper on Transforming Public Service Delivery. When the first study was started in 2000, all of the eight Batho Pele principles were looked at, with four national and 23 provincial departments taking part in the study. Following that baseline study, an in-depth study was done on a principle-by-principle basis. The PSC is currently completing reports on compliance with the two principles of Value for Money and Consultation, and compliance with the principle of Openness and Transparency would be assessed in 2007/08.

Mr Diphofa said that 11 out of the 27 departments said that they consult with their clients. Six departments said they had developed service standards and ten departments said they have measures to promote access. Only one department had given attention to courtesy standards, 22 had information sharing mechanisms in place, 11 gave attention to redress procedures, and no departments out of the 27 had measures to evaluate value for money. In terms of compliance with the Principle of Information, there was consistency. The PSC had found that in terms of packaged information such as annual reports and information posted on websites, the departments were performing rather well. However, when it came to individual requests for information tailored to the specific requirements of the person seeking the information, a challenge remained.

Mr Diphofa said that the 2000 survey showed that there was a general lack of practical skills to apply the Batho Pele principles. It was further found that Service Delivery Improvement Programmes were a separate campaign from the day to day business of departments, and that departments frequently placed demands for improved or new services on the service delivery units, without looking at the costs thereof. Other findings were that Service Delivery Improvement Programmes were simply listings of consultation arrangements, standards and complaints procedures, and also that the Batho Pele policy had not changed the daily tasks of front-line personnel. It was further found that performance management systems had not been adjusted to establish clear links between a department’s service delivery performance and the individual performances of staff members.

Mr Diphofa said that the PSC had made the following recommendations from the 2000 Batho Pele survey: the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) should establish an appropriately resourced programme for departments, and the Batho Pele principles should be integrated into the Strategic Plans of departments. Performance management systems should be adjusted to link individual and organisational performance, and the results of consultation with citizens should be analysed and presented as management reports. Departments should further align their service delivery capacity with the required service delivery improvements. This meant that when a department indicated the services they would like to provide, they should check to see that they have the capacity to provide these services. In this way, a link between resources and what the department wanted to offer, would be maintained.

Mr Diphofa moved on to the findings on the Service Standards Principle, and indicated that 52% of departments had service standards. He said that 69% of the departments that submitted service standards complied with the concept of Quantity, Quality and Time. He referred to the provision of identity documents as an example and said that this would relate to turnaround times, the number of ID documents that would be produced within a given timeframe, and the assurance that all details on the ID document would be correct. The recommendations made in terms of the Service Standards Principle were that the DPSA should actively promote the Batho Pele Handbook to demonstrate the important link between service standards and strategic objectives, and that a common approach to service standards should be developed. Such a common approach would ensure consistency in measuring performance and the progress made in improving service delivery.

Mr Diphofa said that the Service Standards survey was followed by a study of the Access Principle in 2005/06. He said that out of the 131 departments surveyed, 50% of national and 46% of provincial departments reported that they have developed access standards. He mentioned that these figures are quite low. Mr Diphofa said that only 50% of departments indicated that they have signage and that this signage provides a clear indication of the services offered. He added that less than 50% of departments said that they have systems in place to monitor their performance against the access targets and standards. Departments were asked to rate themselves on compliance with the Access Principle and only 5% of national and 5% of provincial departments rated themselves as “excellent”. Recommendations made in terms of the Access principle were that under-performing departments should set targets to ensure progressive improvement, that such targets should address consultation with clients, and that progress should be assessed as part of performance management systems. Basic minimum standards on access are required.

Mr Diphofa said that the findings on the Redress Principle showed that less than half of all departments indicated that they have set targets to improve their complaint handling systems, and that only 29% of national and 18% of provincial departments said that they have a system to monitor performance on redress. When departments were asked to rate themselves on compliance with the Redress Principle, only 5% of national and 2% of provincial departments rated themselves as “excellent”. Recommendations made in terms of the Redress principle were that departments should set and implement clear targets and standards for handling complaints, that departments should benchmark their complaints-handling mechanisms against comparable institutions, that departments should monitor the handling of complaints, and that departments should enforce accountability for the complaints-handling system.

Mr Diphofa moved on to the Citizen Satisfaction Surveys. He said that citizen satisfaction was assessed in relation to accessibility of services and attention given to tangibles, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and reliability. The studies focused on specific services and used a representative sample of the users of services. The following surveys had been conducted: the Social Sector in 2003, the Criminal Justice Sector in 2005, and the Economic and Infrastructure Service Sector in 2006. He said that all these reports had already been tabled in Parliament. Surveys done in 2007 involved the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Trade and Industry and the provincial transport services, and that these reports are currently being finalised.

Mr Diphofa referred to a graph depicting the overall findings of the Citizen Satisfaction Surveys. He said that the average satisfaction level is 71%. They had also gone outside the public service and surveyed the banking, postal services, hospitality and telecommunications sectors, in order to gain clarity on the benchmarks within these industries. The Department of Correctional Services showed the lowest satisfaction level at 58%, followed by the Department of Housing at 62%. The Department of Agriculture showed the highest satisfaction level at 79%.

Mr Diphofa said that in terms of the key findings of the study of the Social Sector, areas of satisfaction were the accessibility of offices, the appearance of staff and staff attitudes and behaviour. Areas of concern were the waiting period for assistance, a lack of follow-up action by staff, and the fact that application and registration forms and information booklets were often not available. Recommendations for the Social Sector were that the satisfaction level should be measured annually, that departments should integrate the findings of the CSS into performance measurement systems, and the identification of managers’ key delivery areas to be measured by the Citizen Satisfaction Survey.

Mr Diphofa said that the survey on the Criminal Justice Sector revealed that physical access to service points
was generally adequate for urban dwellers but presented a challenge in the rural areas. He said that courtesy and respect by civil servants received a high rating. In terms of the availability of information, signage and information desks were generally inadequate. He also cited the lack of a complaints-handling mechanism. Recommendations for the Criminal Justice Sector were that access by disabled and rural populations should be attended to, and that the need for increased coordination among government departments should be addressed. Mr Diphofa referred to the problem of overcrowding in prisons as an example, and said that a measure of integration with the department responsible for determining when inmates go on trial, would partially address the problem of overcrowding.

Mr Diphopa moved on to the key findings in the Economic and Infrastructure Sector and said that service points were accessible but that service levels did not meet the high expectations of the clients. Poor turn around time was a key problem and that the application processes for permits were quite complex. Clients were generally satisfied with staff but that signage was not satisfactory. It was recommended that application processes be simplified and signage be improved. Further recommendations were that access to services via the internet should be considered, and that turn around times should be evaluated.

Mr Diphopa concluded the presentation by saying that the PSC would continue to update the Executive with regard to progress made with both compliance and citizen satisfaction.

Discussion
The Chairperson expressed his frustration at the fact that the Committee was unable to actively follow up on the findings of the PSC. He said that Committee members listened to reports, and then moved on to other committees and listened to more reports. He said that a parliamentary standing committee that could monitor follow-up would help to address this problem but in the absence of such a committee, it was a matter of concern that members could not actually talk about what has achieved in respect of the Batho Pele principles.

Mr I Julies (DA) said that he has listened to the findings of the PSC but he had a problem in that after the meeting was adjourned, he did not know what he as a committee member could do to fast track service delivery. He said that he wanted to know the purpose of a committee that did not have a mandate to carry out the goals of government. Mr Julies added that the portfolio committee was not a committee for a particular department, but a committee for the whole structure of government.

The Chairperson asked whether the PSC had presented to other portfolio committees and Dr Maharaj replied that the findings on the Batho Pele principles had only been presented to this committee.

Mr A Nyambi (ANC) said that there had been a suggestion that round tables be held and that various committees come together to discuss the challenges facing them.

Mr B Mthembu (ANC) said that the presentation had provided the Committee with a general picture of the situation, and that this picture should act as the starting point for action by members. He referred to the first roundtable held for the presentation of the State of the Public Service report, and recalled that attendance from other Portfolio Committees had been poor. Mr Mthembu said that there had been no binding deliberation on round tables. He suggested that the Committee start with the current report and move forward.

Dr Maharaj said that he would like to think of the interaction between the committee and the PSC as a process of engagement and debate. The Chairperson said that members should talk to the Batho Pele issue as South Africans, and decide as South Africans what would be the best way of embarking upon action.

Mr M Sikakane (ANC) asked the Commission whether they thought there would ever come a time when it could be said that we do no longer have any problems, and that South Africans are generally satisfied with service levels.

Mr Nyembe said that as long as we have people who are poor, we would never be able to say that. Dr Maharaj said that the matter should not be addressed from the perspective of being able to reach the stage where we can say that we are totally satisfied. He said that the fact that life is dynamic and also that human beings are progressive mean that we have to raise the bar all the time in order to achieve progress. He said that we would not have progressed from ancient civilisation to where we are today, if we did not constantly strive to improve ourselves.

Dr Maharaj said that a stage where all the needs of the people are met will therefore never be reached, and more so when one took into account the current inequalities in society.

Mr Diphofa said that reaching a point of saying that everything has been done could pave the way to  resting on one’s laurels. He said that the danger was that this could cause the negatives to start exceeding the positives. He said that it is possible to achieve excellence, but because the environment is dynamic, there is always room for improvement. He cited as an example a new study that shows that households are becoming smaller, and said that this necessitates changes to the housing targets as it indicates that more people need to be housed.

Mr Sikakane asked if departments have actually made any progress since studies have been carried out.

Dr Maharaj said that there have definitely been improvements, and that there are national indicators that allow for pockets of excellence to be identified. He referred to the transformation of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) as an example, and said that most of the members must have experienced this transformation on either a personal or anecdotal level. Dr Maharaj said that it was very impressive that SARS published its service standards in newspapers. He said that if one considers where we have come from to where we are today then it could definitely be said that the needs of people have been responded to. He said that we come from an era in which no services were provided and in which services were provided on a segregated basis, with resources being allocated accordingly. He said the fact that South Africans are no longer being offered segregated services was a major achievement, and clearly shows that significant advances have been made. 

Mr Diphofa added that there have also been a number of quick wins. For example, Home Affairs has extended their office hours so that they are now also open on a Saturday. He also mentioned the fact that there was a great improvement in the wearing of name tags by staff.

Mr Mthembu expressed his appreciation to the Commission for providing the Committee with an update, and for the in-depth analysis of six years of evaluation of the Batho Pele principles. He said that efforts aimed at transformation were crucial and underscored the need for a people-centred government and the creation of a caring society. He said that it had become clear from the previous briefing that this whole philosophy of a change in mindset was very important, and that management culture and organisational culture are critical to our progress. He said that it was further clear from previous discussions that a lot of work had gone into ensuring that Batho Pele is institutionalised. For example, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) had embarked upon a campaign, and had also published a handbook that explained every principle and how it should work. He said that for him the key issue was meeting the Service Delivery standards. Mr Mthembu said that simply stating the service standards was not enough. The handbook states clearly what must be done but the big challenge relates to implementation. He said that when Heads of Department as strategic leaders were asked to sign performance agreements as part of a performance management system,  that agreement should also include a plan that covers what will be done to ensure that Batho Pele is institutionalised,  and this should also be monitored. Mr Mthembu asked for clarity on the implementation problem.

Dr Zwelakthe Tshandu (Deputy Director-General, DPSA) said that one of the challenges was a lack of skills to implement the Batho Pele principles. He said that this was something everyone had to come to grips with. He said that a Change Management process was in place, and that a sector approach with customised solutions for each sector, was being followed. He said that attempts were being made to ensure linkages between the different sector processes. Dr Tshandu added that a further challenge was presented by efforts to intervene where there were no service standards. He said that the DPSA was making every effort to ensure that every single department has a service delivery plan.  Dr Tshandu said that the DPSA had a formal unit that physically went out to assist departments, and that the research by the PSC had been very helpful in this regard. He added that the findings of the PSC were spot on in terms of leading the way to solving the implementation problem. He said that the PSC research had further provided a firm foundation for linking individual performance management with organisational strategy. 

Mr Nyambi referred to the point made in the presentation that 46% of provincial departments reported that they have developed access standards. He asked how the PSC had reached this figure, and wanted to know if one province was used as a sample for all nine provinces, or whether another method of calculation had been used. Mr Nyambi said that what concerned him was if the PSC had gone to Province A and found that there is a serious problem, and then used Province A as a sample, they might be led to the wrong conclusion about the overall performance of provinces.

Mr Diphofa said that the figure 46% simply referred to the percentage of all the provinces surveyed that said that they have developed access standards.

Dr Maharaj said that he would like to warn against the trap of looking at percentages. He said that he had paid a visit to Groote Schuur Hospital and that out of 50 000 outpatients per month, 95% had said that they were satisfied with the service. However, if one translated the 5% of dissatisfied patients it means that 2 500 people are dissatisfied with the service. Dr Maharaj said that this is a very large number of dissatisfied people. He added that percentage statistics is something that one can always fall back onto, and which further allows people to rest on their laurels, but when one paid personal visits and had first-hand experience, a totally different picture emerged. Dr Maharaj said that the public service itself should gain first-hand experience on the ground, so that all stakeholders could raise the bar as a collective. He said that statistics paint a particular picture, and in the case of the Batho Pele studies, the picture that is being painted is not a good one, and should raise alarm bells that all departments are not performing optimally. However, the findings also make it clear that there is progress in certain areas. Dr Maharaj said that the powers and resources that parliament, the PSC and the public service had as a collective, had not yet been exhausted. He urged members not to view the findings only in terms of the negative aspects that had been raised, but to see it as a window of opportunity to start making a difference.

Mr Nyembi said that he had been impressed by the graph which showed that private sector institutions had also been surveyed, and asked for more information on this.

Mr Diphofa said that the private and public sectors could learn from each other, particularly with regard to benchmarking, but that one could not really compare the two sectors, as they operated within different contexts. For example, the complaints-handling contexts of the two sectors are different.

Dr Maharaj said that it was crucial that the non-integrated approach to service delivery should come to an end. He said that this was starting to happen at national level. Dr Maharaj said that provincial role players did not show the same level of commitment as their national counterparts, and that this was another matter that had to be addressed.

The Chairperson said that the frustrations of the Committee should be met with understanding, particularly with regard to the inability to make members of other portfolio committees see what they are trying to achieve. He said that South Africans needed to see more progress after 13 years of democracy, and that leaders themselves should demonstrate a solid understanding of Batho Pele. The Chairperson urged the Committee to move forward decisively, so that future generations could not come along and say that nothing was done.

The meeting was adjourned.


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