South Africa’s constitution relies on an organised, engaged citizenry to ensure the transparent, fair and democratic implementation of its core values. Without resolute, consistent public pressure, public and elected officials can become corrupt and inefficient, and fail in their mandate to serve citizens and the country. Regulated community, civil society, and media-based monitoring and evaluation of government programs and public service delivery is critical to hold government to account and increase the quality of public services. This policy brief presents an alternative monitoring and evaluation process that would help increase transparency, accountability and efficiency in service delivery.
South Africa needs a new model to monitor and evaluate the performance of government and delivery of public services that involves ordinary citizens, civil society, and the media.
Monitoring happens during the implementation stage of a government programme or project. Evaluation of a government programme or project takes place at the end of the delivery or non-delivery.
Monitoring and evaluation of government programmes, systems, and delivery are crucial to identifying where public service implementation falls short and why and how to fix it. It is also crucial to see whether policies are working (World Bank 2013).
Community, citizen-based, civil society and media monitoring and evaluation of public service delivery increases the democratic accountability, transparency, and quality of government (World Bank 2008). It reduces corruption, inefficiency, and waste. It also improves the quality of public services.
Community, citizen-based and civil society monitoring and evaluation are forms of collective action. Community or citizen-based monitoring encourages democratic participation in public service delivery. It empowers citizens, promotes active citizenship, and promotes social justice. It improves the capacity of the state to fulfill its public service mandate itself.
At the moment, there is very little space for citizens, community organisations, civil society and the media to influence public service delivery in South Africa. One of the weaknesses of South Africa’s constitutional democracy has been the dearth of active citizens. The absence of mass engaged citizens since the fall of apartheid has contributed to the lack of accountability, rising corruption, and mismanagement by public and elected representatives.
The Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DPME) (2013: 15) has acknowledged: “What remains largely missing from government’s monitoring system, however, is the citizens’ experience of government services and the systematic use of this evidence to improve performance”.
South Africa’s current public monitoring and evaluation model
The current government monitoring and evaluation model, whereby the DPME sends requests for reports from national, provincial and municipal departments about whether they have achieved their delivery targets, is simply too top-down, has proven to be ineffective and is open to massaging the results (Gumede 2009, 2017).
Government’s model is based on getting annual reports on publicly funded programmes, projects and initiatives from local officials and from government social, economic and demographic surveys; which DPME then consolidates and bases its evaluations of government performance on (DPME 2013). In addition, the DPME has chosen a number of government delivery sites, ranging from national to municipal government, including some courts, hospitals, and police stations, to be monitored and evaluated on a regular basis (DPME 2015).
Field-level managers at these sites have received selected training in monitoring and evaluation techniques (DPME 2015). The DPME also send its own officials to selected government delivery sites to monitor and evaluate government delivery. They will typically take photographs, complete a scorecard, and consider plans for improvement. It has monitored and evaluated more than the 650 delivery sites. The results are not made public. The DPME has also established a grievance hotline for the public to offer feedback directly.
At the apex of the planning, monitoring and evaluation programme is the presidency requiring individual ministers of national departments to sign performance contracts based on eight outcomes set out in the National Development Plan (NDP). Departments are then supposed to submit annual reports of their delivery record on programmes to the president, based on predefined targets. The National Treasury monitors and evaluates the efficiency of budget spending on the programmes, projects, and initiatives of the public sector.
Constitutional democratic and oversight institutions such as Parliament, Chapter 9 institutions, the Auditor-General, and the courts are supposed to hold government accountable in delivering on its delivery mandate. Ordinary citizens, civil society, and the media are also supposed to hold government accountable to deliver quality public services.
However, the performance-based monitoring and evaluation programme has fallen flat in many instances. The quality of monitoring and evaluation has been poor across government. This being due to lack of capacity and lack of political will in the instances where there is capacity. Furthermore, the information fed through by government officials about the state of public service delivery has been poor, inadequate and often massaged (PSC 2008; DBSA 2011; Radebe 2015).
The government’s own surveys conclude there are “gaps in the information needed for planning the delivery of services and for reviewing and analysing the success of policies” (PSC 2008). For another, both the DPME and the Treasury have struggled to get cooperation from individual ministers and departments (Gumede 2017).
Ministers have not been fully held accountable for their performances on programmes and on the efficiency of managing their budgets. It appears that ministers more closely aligned to President Jacob Zuma often get a free pass if they do not deliver. But more recently, many democratic and oversight institutions have been captured by corrupt elements, and have been unable to monitor and evaluate individual ministers and departments on the execution of their mandates (Gumede 2017).
Democratic constitution, laws, and policies call for citizen participation in government delivery
The constitution, democratic laws, and government policies make provision for the participation of citizens, communities and civil society in the delivery of public services. However, little effort has been given to this.
Section 195 (1) (e) of the Constitution states that people’s needs must be responded to … and (f) that public administration must be accountable. The National Development Plan (NDP) stated that strengthening accountability of government, through harnessing the energy and experience of citizens at the level at which services are delivered, is key for achieving a capable and developmental state.
At the local level, there are legal provisions that capacitate citizens to participate in ward committee structures, and participate in designing, monitoring and evaluating the integrated development programmes (IDPs) of municipalities. This rarely takes place (DBSA 2011; SACN 2016)
South Africa is a signatory to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) (2011), in which the South African government committed itself to strengthen “mechanisms for meaningful citizen engagement in service delivery improvements and policy development processes”.
At a continental level, South Africa is a signatory to the African Union’s Peer Review Mechanism, which committed countries to ensure “an active role for citizens in monitoring government performance” (AU 2003).
National laws, policies, and strategies calling for public participation in the delivery of public services are seemingly on paper only.
Clearly, many of the current national, provincial and local government participatory structures, institutions, and strategies are not working, are not accountable, or are obsolete. For example, Parliament is now a lame-duck – unable to hold government departments, state-owned entities, and public officials to account.
At the local level, ward committees, Integrated Development Programmes (IDPs) and citizen and community forums are more moribund. Governments at all levels are generally perceived by citizens as not being responsive, accountable and honest (HSRC 2013; PSC 2010; PricewaterhouseCoopers 2014; Transparency International & Afrobarometer 2015). These are among the reasons for the rising, often violent public protests against public service failures, corruption and lack of accountability. Community, citizen-based, civil society and media-based monitoring and evaluation may channel public participation into more peaceful ways. It may also renew the lost trust between governments and citizens.
Empowering citizens, civil society, and the media
To overcome the gaps in monitoring and evaluation, whether because of poor information from public servants or lack of political will by departments, the DPME in 2013 argued for “new creative partnerships between government, citizens, and civil society” to aid government to deliver better public services.
The government’s own internal surveys dismiss current government efforts to involve citizens, communities and civil society in the monitoring and evaluation of government delivery as stunningly inadequate (Public Service Commission 2008).
Furthermore, there are scarce mechanisms to use the feedback from government’s internal surveys, input from field managers and grievances from the public, to make changes to improve the efficiency of delivery, design of policies and adjustment budgeting.
Public service and elective representative accountability have plummeted. Empowering ordinary citizens, civil society, communities and the media to monitor government delivery of public services is more cost-effective, participatory and are likely to bring more accountability in government. It also increases democratic accountability, transparency, and quality of government. It will boost the capacity of government to fulfill its mandate to serve the citizenry and increase the quality and sustainability of public services. Public service could become more responsive and also reduce corruption more effectively.
Bringing citizens, communities, civil society and the media into the monitoring and evaluation of public services, will also help to promote a democratic culture in South African society. A democratic culture is where citizens, elected and public officials inculcate the values of the democratic constitution in their public, private and work activities.
Global examples of citizen, community and media-based monitoring and evaluation of public service delivery
There are many examples of citizen-based monitoring and evaluation of public service delivery elsewhere. In Uganda, community monitoring and evaluation of the delivery of public health has improved the quality of delivery by public hospitals. In some districts, communities and civil society have set up health users’ management committees. Where these committees were active, the World Bank reports absenteeism by public servants decreased and the quality of service – measured by wait time and quality of care, improved (Bjorkman & Svensson 2009).
In Kenya, in the Lorengelup village, the National Taxpayers Association (NPA) has initiated a program where local communities monitor, evaluate and audit the implementation of water service delivery (Integrity Action 2017). Locals were trained to analyse the delivery of water services, do beneficiary surveys and engage with local government and contractors. The project saw a quick turnaround in water service delivery.
In India, there are examples of community-based monitoring of public education. In the Uttar Pradesh state communities monitor the delivery of education at schools, through village education committees (Khemani 2008). Village volunteers, for example, prepare “report cards” on the reading ability of children – which is then debated with the teachers and local government, and recommendations to improve teaching and learning.
In several states in India, such as Karnataka, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, community-based monitoring of health services has seen “improved accountability and the responsiveness of the public health system” (Shukla, Saha & Jadhav 2013). When the local media, specifically in Maharashtra, reported on failures in public health delivery, district health officials made efforts to deal with the problems (Shukla 2012).
Integrity Watch (2014), a civil society group in Afghanistan, in 2007 introduced community-based monitoring and evaluation of infrastructure, mining and development projects. The initiative has shown that citizen, community and civil society-based monitoring in that instance improved the quality of the projects, increased the accountability of the entities and slashed corruption.
South African examples of citizen, community and media-based monitoring and evaluation of public service delivery
There is small-scale community-based monitoring being experimented at local government level in South Africa. Examples are clinic committees, consisting of citizens, communities and civil society, in some clinics which are supposed to involve the community and citizens. Where they worked – they dramatically improved the performance of public clinics.
The Black Sash launched a Community Monitoring Advocacy Programme (CMAP), where dedicated community volunteers, supported by community and civil society organisations, are trained to monitor certain operations of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), the Department of Health, Home Affairs and certain municipalities. They monitor and evaluate these departments to see whether they comply with their own norms and standards, and how they implement administrative justice when delivering public services.
The Social Justice Coalition has introduced social audits of basic sanitation delivery and government spending in some areas, done by local communities. There are other examples of successful monitoring and evaluation across civil society. The Our Health Citizen Journalist project provides media platforms for ordinary citizens to report service delivery failures in the delivery of health services in selected areas. The project specifically monitors the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHI).
The Mvula Trust introduced the Raising Citizens’ Voice which monitors delivery of water service delivery in some municipalities. The Soul City Institute has launched a community-based monitoring project which aims to involve the community in tracking health delivery for young people, particularly adolescents.
How citizens, communities, civil society and the media can monitor public service delivery
Imagine if citizens, civil society, and the media sit in the offices of Home Affairs, monitoring their services, watch whether public servants are effective, polite and honest, and report them, if they are incompetent, callous and corrupt.
Citizens, community groups, and civil society representatives should be part of oversight, monitoring and evaluation committees at national delivery sites and offices, such as Home Affairs to monitor the implementation of their programmes. Citizens, community groups, and civil society representatives should also be part of oversight, monitoring and evaluation committees at hospitals, police stations, and schools.
Every government delivery service site, whether hospital, police station or a Home Affairs site, must have a customer satisfaction survey, where every individual government transaction must be rated by the recipient. The results of these surveys must be made public. Government delivery sites and individual public officials must be performance managed based on the outcomes of these customer survey results.
The media must be an integral part of such a new model to monitor and evaluate the delivery of public services. Bringing the media in, whether at local or national level, to report on service delivery failures.
The media is integral in any new citizen, community and civil society based monitoring and evaluation model of government service delivery. It can publicise citizen, community and civil society complaints about government service delivery failures, expose corruption and name-and-shame perpetrators.
There may be a need to get trade unions buy-in also. Trade unions or employee representatives must be part of monitoring and evaluation committees at the service delivery site level and must agree to hold their members accountable, to ensure the delivery of quality public services.
In order to secure buy-in for citizen-based monitoring, social pacts at the local, provincial and national level between trade unions, government and communities could be agreed upon. This would legitimise citizen, community-based monitoring, and evaluation as the primary method to manage public service performance.
Ingredients necessary for citizen, community and media-based monitoring and evaluation of public service delivery
Political will is needed to implement citizen, community, civil society and media-based public service delivery monitoring and evaluation. There will also have to be buy-in from public servants and elected representatives.
Yet, there is currently a hostile relationship between government and civil society, which is an obstacle to closer government/civil society collaboration. State Security Minister David Mahlobo (2017) outrageously claims that civil society is out to get government, for calling out and criticising government failures.
In India, for example, there has often been resistance from government to citizen, civil society and media involvement in monitoring and evaluation government performance. Government there often wanted to participate only with pliant groups.
The majority of South African citizens are illiterate – and do not know their rights. This means a mass-base citizen monitoring of public service program will need to educate citizens about their rights, how to assert them and where to complain.
The good thing is that the education of citizens on their rights, at a mass level, will in itself be a public good, increasing active citizenship, boosting individual agency and providing tools to ordinary citizens to assert their rights and hold elected representatives and public officials accountable.
Citizen, civil society, and media-based monitoring will give government and citizens, more reliable, credible and accurate information on the state of public service delivery, mismanagement and corruption, than reports from government officials, surveys and agencies.
It will prevent massaged, false information about the effectiveness of government services. It is a better way to hold government accountable and will improve the quality of government services. Community, citizen-based, civil society and media monitoring and evaluation may re-energise public participation may bring back the lost trust between government and citizens (Mniki-Mangaliso 2015).
Government officials and elected representatives should be measured on the basis of meeting performance targets. Government officials, ministers, and officials who are not performing should be censored – even if they are politically connected, senior in the governing party or allied with the president.
Finally, there have to be mechanisms to use the feedback from citizens, community groups, civil society, and the media, to improve the efficiency of delivery, planning and budgeting (World Bank (2013). There has to be the political will to act on the feedback from citizens, community groups, civil society, and constitutional democratic oversight institutions, such as the courts, which has been absent thus far.
African Union (2003) African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). African Union, Addis Ababa
Bester, A. (2015). Scoping Study on Monitoring, Review, and Accountability for Development Cooperation to support implementation of a Post-2015 Development Agenda. UNDESA, 2015
Bjorkman, Martina, and Jakob Svensson (2009) Power to the People: Evidence From a Randomized Field Experiment on Community-Based Monitoring in Uganda. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 124(2): 735-69.
Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (2015) Citizen-Based Monitoring and Front Line Service Delivery Monitoring results: DPME report on implementation and Annual Development Indicators. Report to National Parliament. February 25, Cape Town
Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (2013) A Framework for Strengthening Citizen-Government Partnerships for Monitoring Frontline Service Delivery, Government Printer, Pretoria, June 1
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Gumede, William (2017) Creating Public Value through Citizen-based Performance Monitoring and Evaluation. Speech to the National Treasury Roundtable: Creating Public Value and Measuring Social Justice, May 24, Pretoria
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Shukla, Abhay (2012) Community based monitoring of health services in Maharashtra: How use of community based evidence for accountability is leading to improvement in Health Services. Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives (SATHI), India
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Links to South African community-based monitoring projects:
Black Sash Community Monitoring and Advocacy Project (CMAP)
Health E-News OurHealth citizen Journalist project
The Mvula Trust “Raising the Citizens’ Voice”
Social Justice Coalition Social Audits Program
Soul City Institute Community Based Monitoring (http://www.soulcity.org.za/projects/re-engineering-primary-health-care/community-based-monitoring-cbm)