Public Service Commission - News

Monitoring and Evaluation System to be Developed

By Chief Directorate: Management and Service Delivery Improvement

The South African Constitution entrusts the Public Service Commission (PSC) with the task of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of public service performance and promoting a high standard of professional ethics in the service. The Commission is in the process of developing a Monitoring and Evaluation System. The aim of the system will be to gather, capture, organise, store and retrieve data relating to public sector performance in order to assist the PSC in meeting its constitutional mandate. Significant progress has been made in terms of developing the system specifications.

System Strategy

In order for the proposed M&E System to be implemented, a number of processes will have to take place simultaneously, and agreement has been be reached on a number of principles. These include the following:

  • A carefully planned approach based on collaboration and participation in system design and development will be adopted with the institutions to be monitored by the PSC. This means that from the outset, other role-players will be involved in all elements of the project. The system will aim to build monitoring and evaluation capacity in the organisations it monitors and, by so doing, to build management capacity and Monitoring and Evaluation culture in the South African public service.
  • Technology will be used as an enabler: processes and procedures must be clearly understood and mapped and their value identified before being automated and digitised.
  • The danger of being systems-driven will be guarded against.
  • A phased approach will be adopted so that a number of elements are put in place in the correct sequence. This will enhance the chances of project success.
  • The strategy proposed has serious personnel implications: While the PSC has experienced and skilled staff, many have limited Monitoring and Evaluation expertise or research experience. In addition, experience in using and applying technology is limited in the PSC. Since there are limited additional resources available for hiring new expertise, skills development must become a priority. Training will have to be planned as an integral part of the overall strategy and should include basic word processing skills as well as more high level analytical and project management modules.

The implementation plan allows for clearly identified phases (as indicated below) with specific activities and time frames.

Phase Time Frame
1. Stakeholder Consultations January 2001 - April 2001
2. Initial Systems Proposal and Discussion March 2001 - April 2001
3. Pilot survey of paper-based system May 2001 - August 2001
4. Appointment of IT partner and product provider July 2002
5. Automation and Computerisation July 2002 - May 2003
6. Evaluation of system December 2003

Good progress has been made and the Commission is on target with the first three phases.

Developing Performance Indicators

The development of performance indicators poses one of the greatest challenges to the PSC in developing its monitoring system. The performance indicators will significantly influence data to be collected as well as the method and ease of collection. There is acknowledgement within the Commission that the determination of the performance indicators should be an inclusive process led by the PSC. Some work has been done on formulating possible performance indicators, but more work needs to be done in this area. Since it is the conceptual heart of the system, the actual indicators that get monitored need to be the product of investigation, debate and discussion at a high level. This is an aspect of project implementation that needs careful attention.

Key challenges include the need to formulate a manageable number of indicators that will allow for realistic amounts of data to be gathered and to produce reports and analyses, which fall squarely within the mandate of the Commission.

In developing the first cut of Performance Indicators for the PSC's M&E system, the Commission decided to use the constitutional values on public administration, which the PSC is required to uphold as benchmarks.

It is likely that these proposed Performance indicators would generate significant debate and contention, even after they have been amended. Once some consensus around an initial set of Performance Indicators has been reached, it will then be necessary to propose a set of questionnaires and then pilot these early on to establish potential for success.

Pilot study

A study has been undertaken in the Northern Cape to pilot the M&E System indicators and questionnaire. The study had two purposes:

  1. To produce a report on the state of the public service in the Northern Cape, since this is what the M&E System should eventually be able to do.
  2. To test the indicators and questions: Are the indicators measuring key aspects of the public service and giving a balanced picture of the state of a complex system like the public service? Are the questions enabling us to get relevant data on the indicators?

The Department of Health, Agriculture and Premier were included in the pilot study and the Office of the Commission is currently drafting a report on the study.

Developing a monitoring and evaluation system to support the Constitutional mandate of the Public Service Commission poses a huge challenge. The environment in which such a system must be developed is hostile insofar as several central departments also aspire to develop similar systems. One way to overcome the problem of institutional turf battles is to develop joint strategies for central data collection and warehousing that allow for the formatting and processing of data to be undertaken in accordance with specific institutional requirements.

While there is much reference to the need for M&E systems within contemporary public management frameworks, and much talk of the desirability of these in South Africa across the public service spectrum, the country has yet to develop a solid culture of implementing these systems. There is also a need to build capacity in both central departments with monitoring mandates, as well as in line departments.

Once consensus has been reached around specific monitoring systems, the challenge of securing accurate data to input into the system becomes a major issue. This data needs to be generated in accordance with specific performance indicators.

Article compiled by Chief Directorate: Management and Service Delivery Improvement



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