Public Service Commission - News

Service Excellence: Myth Or Reality?

Service delivery means a lot of different things to different people but to the Public Service Commission (PSC) it means, service excellence. One of the government's important tasks is to build a public service that is capable of meeting the challenge of improving the delivery of services to the citizens of South Africa.

Across the public service, managers are being asked to provide even higher levels of service with steadily diminishing resources. The proposed public service excellence programme, evaluating the Department of Transport, government's housing and land reform programmes, developing good practice guides for hospitals, schools and police stations and assessing tax payers' satisfaction with government service are the major projects currently undertaken to improve service delivery. These projects are undertaken by the Public service Commission (PSC) in partnership with the departments involved and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA).

The PSC as an independent and impartial institution established by the Constitution's section 196, has been tasked with investigating, monitoring and evaluating the organisation and administration of the public service. Linked to the aforementioned powers, the PSC also promotes measures to ensure effective and efficient service performance.

Promoting Effective and Efficient Service Delivery

A study, conducted in 1999/2000 by the PSC to assess compliance with the Batho Pele White Paper and service improvement initiatives indicated, amongst others, that public service delivery is way behind the level it is supposed to be. The findings, while acknowledging the role of departments in service improvement, emphasise the contribution each service delivery unit can have on overall service improvement. As a result, approaches to service improvement by the PSC are directed at the departments as organisations, particular programmes and service delivery units.

Batho Pele Service Excellence Programme

Within the context of organisational service excellence, managers are looking for ways, including systems, tools and models which will allow them to: (i) do meaningful assessments of their current overall levels of performance and the reasons for the levels achieved; (ii) identify areas within the internal operations where improvement initiatives will have the greatest impact on their ability to meet targets; and (iii) identify own good practices and learn from those of other departments or organisations across the public service.

The PSC and the DPSA, recognising the need to create effective and efficient organisations that will allow for performance excellence, have embarked on a project on the establishment and implementation of a national excellence programme. Such a programme should serve the purpose of (i) assessing departmental management and service delivery performance and motivate, recognise and reward departments for their efforts to improve public service delivery. This will be accomplished through a programme with tools that will allow departments to (i) evaluate the application of the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution (Section 195), the Code of Conduct and service delivery principles of the Batho Pele White Paper; (ii) assess departments' overall performance and the reasons for the level achieved; (iii) compare departments' performance against best practices; (iv) distinguish between good and bad performance; identify those areas of departments' internal operations where improvements will have the greatest impact on their ability to meet their targets; (v) identify departments' own good practice and learn from others; (vi) identify successful implementation of improvement action by departments; and (vii) form the basis upon which a department receives recognition for excellent service delivery performance.

International experience has shown that organisations that utilise models which allow for self-assessment are able, not only to compare the units of their organisations within, but also to benchmark their organisation against others. By comparing the best with the best, self-assessment boosts the process of continuous improvement. With the introduction of the programme, it is intended that departments will pursue excellence to ensure continuous and measured improvements in their organisation's performance.

Customer Satisfaction Survey

One of the requirements of the Batho Pele White Paper is that government departments must regularly and systematically consult with potential and existing customers. The PSC, in trying to take further and operationalise the Batho Pele principle of consultation, also saw a need to consult with customers/tax payers through undertaking a National Customer survey that will determine the level of satisfaction with services and how these are to be delivered to government's customers and clients. The survey will focus on both internal and external customers.

The Batho Pele customer satisfaction requirement has always been taken for granted in the belief that customers will accept services delivered to them without question since the government is the sole provider. Meeting citizen's expectations on public service delivery is a legitimate practice by which any government is judged and a transformed South Africa will be judged by its effectiveness in the delivery of services that meet the basic needs of all citizens. The objectives of the customer survey will be to (i) determine customer expectations/ attitudes towards service delivery, (ii) measure the actual level of customer satisfaction with current service delivery, and (iii) indicate areas that have to be prioritised for improvement, and set a trend for departments to undertake similar surveys.

Evaluating Government Programmes and the Administration of Departments

The PSC is planning evaluations of the housing and land reform programmes. These evaluations will give a view of the effectiveness and impact of government delivery programmes.

The PSC, on the request of the National Minister of Transport, will also be undertaking an evaluation of the Department of Transport. This project will cover two aspects, namely: an evaluation of the limitations of organisational structuring and performance as well as an evaluation of the efficacy of devolving policy implementation to autonomous agencies, an approach adopted by the Department in 1996.

The Development of Good Practice Guides

At the service delivery unit level, the PSC intends to come up with good practice guides for hospitals, schools and police stations. Two out of the three departments i.e. education and health consume approximately 65% of the provincial budgets, thereby giving a compelling reason for examining and improving the performance of these departments.

The methodology followed includes site visits, in loco inspections, unstructured interviews and the use of questionnaires. Several service delivery units and sites to be visited have been selected nationwide. Two to three sites per province will be visited. The purpose of such visits is to obtain inputs regarding examples of good practice management from unit managers, staff and other stakeholders.

Collaboration and partnering between the PSC, DPSA and the departments concerned including their national counterparts in the case of health and education, has been fostered.

It is hoped that through the good management guides, managers will be empowered to improve services through the guide that will contain most aspects of a performance management system.

Inputs from these service delivery units, namely: police stations, hospitals and school districts on how they are managing towards better delivery will be compiled into good practice management guides that will be made available to and assist police station, school district and hospitals managers who are struggling with service improvement or intend improving particular areas. It is also hoped that these initiatives will build the learning networks that will allow units to learn from one another.

The programme of the Commission will thus evaluate service delivery from the perspective of both management systems and practices that departments institute to ensure good service delivery and the perspective of actual service delivery results, that is did departments deliver what they promised and are customers satisfied with the results. Moreover, the Commission will evaluate service delivery on two organisational levels, that is the department as the legally constituted institution and sub-units, like police stations, hospitals and school districts, who actually deliver the services to the client.

Article compiled by Chief Directorate: Management and Service Delivery Improvement



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