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December 2004

Service standards

Service standards imageFor the past 12 months Matthew has been engaged by the Office of the Public Service to conduct a national assessment of the state of service standards currently being used by national and provincial departments. In this assessment Matthew explored whether departments had service standards, what the quality of these standards were, and whether departments used these standards to inform initiatives to improve service delivery. Here he provides an overview of what is meant by service standards and why it is important for government departments to have service standards.

Why service standards?

A transformed South African public service will be judged above all by one criterion: its effectiveness in delivering services which meet the basic needs of all South African citizens. Improving service delivery is therefore the ultimate goal of the public service transformation programme as “public services are not a privilege in a civilised and democratic society: they are a legitimate expectation ” (Batho Pele White Paper).

South Africans want better quality services from all levels of government. For instance they want respectful and courteous service; shorter queues; and no misplaced documents. However, at the same time South Africans want government ‘to do more with less' and for government to become more efficient with their taxes. These are not new demands, but citizens of this country are becoming more vocal in their displeasure with poor service delivery, so much so that President Mbeki in his State of the Nation Address at the opening of our Third Democratic Parliament, May 2004, committed the government to:

Achieve further and visible advances with regard to the improvement of the quality of life of our people, affecting many critical areas of social existence, including health, safety and security, moral regeneration, social cohesion, opening the doors of culture and education to all, and …ensure that the Public Service discharges its responsibilities to our people as a critical player in the process of growth, reconstruction and development of our country.

The President's vision for the next five years is based on a foundation of a transformed Public Service delivering “people centered” services which is “characterized by equity, quality, timeousness and a strong code of ethics” (Mission of the SA Public Service,). For the past 10 years the democratic government led first by President Mandela and now President Mbeki have been creating a government-wide focus on results which has gradually seen the shift away from simply measuring outputs to a government that now focuses on outcomes. A critical component of measuring outcomes are service standards (service standards). For it is s/ standards that signify to citizens the desirable outcome a department is striving for in terms of service delivery. In essence a service standard 1 is a criterion adopted by a department defining how it should behave towards its citizens.

1 It is important to distinguish between a service standard (i.e. a client focussed standard) and operational performance standards. The latter is an internal management measure that is specific to the quality assurance criterion operating within a sector, e.g. ISO defined standards for bridge and road building or norms and standards used to accredit and quality assure a hospital.

It is also worth noting that Government departments are obliged to develop s/ standards, as stipulated in both the Public Service Regulations and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Departments who have no s/ standards have failed to meet this obligation and have therefore not complied with these directives.

Public Service Regulations (C1 & C2, No 20117, July 1999) specify that an executing authority shall establish and sustain an SDIP for her/his department, which should incorporate s/ standards. Moreover, as noted above, Departments are expected to publish their s/ standards in their annual report as part of their accountability to the citizens of this country. They are also to make reference in their annual report what steps the department is taking to meet these s/ standards. Thus departments are expected to establish and monitor s/ standards and use these as part of their initiative to improve the delivery of services to citizens of this country.

The PFMA (Act No. 1 of 1999) stipulates that strategic plans cannot be developed in isolation and that they must be integrally linked to a department's SDIP. Moreover, the PFMA department emphasises the importance of regular monitoring and reporting against measurable objectives, which are linked to outputs and service delivery indicators (Section 27(4) of the PFMA). In accordance with Section 65 of the PFMA departments table annual reports, which should account for the progress a department has made in meeting its service delivery indicators and thereby inform the public as to the performance the department has achieved in meeting the service delivery standards it has set.

Moreover, A recent judgment (unanimous decision) in the constitutional court has linked the equality clause in the constitution, Section 126(3) to the need for government departments to have a set of minimum standards. In Mashavha v President of the Republic of South Africa and others (CCT67/03), Justice van der Westhuizen found that there was a strong link between delivery of services, in this case social assistance by way of a disability grant, and human dignity, a value upheld by our constitution. The judgment went further and found that social assistance should be:

Regulated or co-ordinated by uniform norms and standards that apply generally throughout the Republic, for effective performance. Effective regulation and effective performance do not only include procedural and administrative efficiency and accuracy, but also fairness and equality for example as far as the distribution and application of resources and assistance are concerned. A system which disregards historical injustices and offends the constitutional values of equality and dignity could result in instability, which would be the antithesis of effective regulation and performance. (See: para 57 page 33)

Although the judgment dated 6 September 2004 deals with issues under the Interim Constitution (IC) and the old Social Assistance Act (SAA) it has far reaching implications for the requirement of developing uniform s/ standards in South Africa.

What are service standards?

The role of service standards – a shortened form of the phrase ‘standards of service' – is to typically answer questions such as: how often will the service be provided? how long should it take to receive the service? and what does one do if one is not satisfied with the service? Thus service standards inform citizens about what kind of service they can expect from a department, and this is usually done in the form of a statement that describes what level of service will be provided to citizens. In essence, a service standard is a criterion adopted by a department in order to define how it should behave with respect to its client base (client base may be internal or external).

Service standards also signify the goals that a particular department is striving for in terms of improving its service delivery. By establishing standards for aspects of delivery such as cost, quality and frequency helps departments improve a broad range of the services they offer.

Every day examples of service standards include:

Department of X: Forensic investigations plans will be produced within 5 working days of fraud having been detected

Department Z: Each Action Request logged with the IT helpdesk will be followed by an updated call within 1 day

Department of Y: We will answer the phone within 5 rings

Departments develop service standards in order to do away with ambiguity and thereby ensure that citizens have realistic expectations about the nature of the services being delivered by a department. Service standards also promote a culture of effectiveness and efficiency as they are typically used by managers in a department to measure the performance of that department. Importantly within the South African context, service standards promote accountability and transparency as standards are a public commitment by a department that they will deliver services that meet the needs of the public.

Service standards are not the same as a service target. A service target, is only one component of a service standard. A target can be seen as a goal a department is ultimately working towards or can be referred to as:

Service Standard components

A service standard is more than simply a delivery target such as reducing waiting times or speeding up response times. Typically, rigorous service standards incorporate five different aspects. These are a description of the service; a service pledge or commitment; a delivery target; the cost of the service; and complaint and redress mechanisms. Expanding on these aspects, a service standard should therefore incorporate the following:

Description: The description provides the details on the service that the department intends to provide, and where applicable the nature of the benefits the citizen can expect to receive. Usually, the service standard includes a short, easy to understand, statement that describes exactly what services are provided at a particular delivery site.


• Process an application for a Foster Grant

• Issue a passport

Service Commitment: The service commitment refers to how citizens will be treated and describes the quality of the service delivery, which the department promises to meet. This commitment would typically emphasize delivery principles such as transparency, accountability, fairness and courtesy.

Service Commitment:

• Our staff will be knowledgeable, responsive, cooperative and available

• We will strive to make information available in all official languages

Delivery Targets: Delivery targets refer to the key aspects of the specific service delivery being referred to in the s/ standards. Generally delivery targets would deal with issues such as access and timeliness. Targets have a two-fold purpose: they help to establish realistic expectations among citizens, based on what the department can actually delivery, and the establish performance expectations for the department.

Delivery Target:

• We will respond to all correspondence within 10 days

• We will process your application within 30 days

Cost: It is important that citizens know about the cost of a service, even when there are no user fees. Knowing the cost of a service, in particular when it is either free or requires only a low fee, encourages citizens to use the service, form realistic expectations about the services being offered, and allows them to participate knowledgeably in debates about the value of government service delivery.


• We will proactively provide our clients with accurate, up-to-date and reliable information concerning the cost of services provided by this department

• No user fee will be charged to clients who utilise this service

Complaint and Redress Mechanisms: It is important that mechanisms are in place to deal with the concerns of citizens when they feel that a department has not met the s/ standards it has promised. In addition, such mechanisms provide a means by which a department can assess the quality of its delivery. A Public Service “that is responsive and client-focussed must provide an easy, clear and effective way for clients to complain and seek redress” 2.

Complaint and Redress Mechanisms:

• We will respond to your complaint within 10 working days of receipt. However, if your complaint requires extensive follow-up, we will contact you within the 10-day period to explain why and when you may expect a full response.

• If you are unhappy with the way you have been dealt with at this police station, you should complain first to the Station Head (Senior Supt…). If you are still not satisfied you can refer the complaint to… If you are dissatisfied with their response you can ask ….

Implementing Service Standards

The DPSA's Batho Pele Handbook (2003), provides a useful framework for departments. It notes that there are five key pre-requisites managers within a department must ensure are in place in order to set standards, namely:

  • Managers must believe that service standards will play a useful role in improving service delivery
  • Departments must have the capacity to develop robust standards;
  • Departments must have the resources to develop and implement service standards, and be able to measure progress against the standards;
  • Departments must be able to promote their service standards and thereby educate citizens and other potential users about their rights with regards to service delivery; and
  • Departments must realise that service standards must be developed that are specific to the needs of a particular customer.

The Handbook also provides a very helpful guide to departments on the approach that they should use in developing service standards. In brief, the six steps suggested by the DPSA are:

  • Know your business – i.e. identify users, stakeholders, and be clear about the vision and mission of the department and what services you can afford to offer.
  • Consult – talk to citizens to see what is working and what is not working and thus needs to be improved.
  • Set standards – make sure that they are sensitive to the needs of your users and address issues such as time, quality, quantity and cost.
  • Empower staff – make sure that employees have the capacity to deliver services to the standards that have been set.
  • Communicate – citizens must be made aware of the standards that the department has committed itself to.

Monitoring Service Standards

Service standards should not simply be seen as ‘nice to have' or simply meeting regulatory requirements, they must be used to assess the performance of the department. When service standards have been established, verification mechanisms need to be identified for each service standard. This will enable a department to monitor on a regular basis the progress it is making towards achieving the standards. At the outset the department should outline how it will monitor and report on progress being made against the s/ standards. Moreover, the department should indicate what will be monitored, what methods it will use in the gathering of data, the frequency by which the results will be reported and to whom the results will be reported. In this way service standards become an essential component of a department's performance management system and ultimately will contribute to ensuring that the President's vision for a transformed public service that meets the delivery needs of its citizens is achieved.

2 Quality and affordable service for Canadians: Establishing S/ standards in the Federal Government. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat: Government of Canada . 1 December 1994 . p. 3.


Official evaluators of the Learnership programme

Official evaluators of the Learnership programme imageIn recent months much has been said in the media about the role and performance of the 25 Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), those agencies at the centre of operationalising the government's national skills development strategy. The thrust of much of this attention has been around the failure of SETAs to deliver on their mandate. As a result there has been talk, and indeed the drafting of some proposals, about merging some of the SETAs so that delivery can be streamlined and, therefore, more effective and efficient.The May 2004 edition of Phatlalatsa reported the results of the pilot study that Strategy & Tactics has conducted for the Department of Labour. While the results were extremely positive from the perspective of the beneficiaries spoken to - those learners who had completed a learnership as well as employers who had been through a programme - we did caution against the generalisability of the results given the small and focused sample of both sets of respondents.

Against this background we have just completed a far more comprehensive evaluation of the learnership programme, focusing on the following key activities:

  • In-depth interviews with all SETAs to get their feedback on the programme as well as on the results of the pilot study.
  • A series of focus groups targeting completed learners and supervisors to explore some of the questions emanating from the pilot study as well as to generate qualitative baseline data for the evaluation.
  • A baseline survey of 1200 learners and 200 employers, spread across SETAs and NQF levels.

We are now involved in the process of consolidating all the information and data that we have gathered over the last number of months in order to meet the main objectives of our evaluation: an assessment of beneficiary perspectives of learnerships; and the establishment of a model and mechanisms for future evaluations of learnerships. Our final report should be submitted to the Department of Labour by the end of the year.


Advisory Team for bi-annual Programme Review: Governance, Justice, Law and Order Sector (GJLOS) Programme , Kenya .

Advisory Team for bi-annual Programme Review: Governance, Justice, Law and Order Sector (GJLOS) Programme , Kenya .  imageStrategy & Tactics, in partnership with South Consulting ( Kenya), won a highly competitive tender to provide an Advisory Team that will review a critical programme in Kenya, namely the Governance, Justice Law and Order Sector Programme, which encapsulates many of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) government's key reforms. The team is led by S&T's David Everatt, backed up by Matthew Smith, and joined by Karuti Kanyinga and Pauline Nyamweya of South Consulting. The first Review runs from October to December 2004, with a joint government/donor Review meeting in Mombasa in December.

GJLOS is a sector-wide programme (SWAP), the first of its kind in Kenya, and among the first world-wide to conjoin governance and justice in a SWAP. Supported by 17 development partners and spear-headed by government, GJLOS seeks to undo the damage of decades of deliberate under-resourcing of the justice sector in Kenya, part of the cause for Kenya being regarded as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The programme also has to cover safety and security issues, support the fight against corruption, support broad-based reform across the sectors, and do so in a situation where a new Constitution has been expected for about 2 years.

While programme Reviews are generally focused but ‘big picture' exercises - different from more detailed programme evaluations, for example - this first GJLOS Review has highly challenging goals. Our terms of reference include more than 50 items requiring analysis, from the robustness of GJLOS as a SWAP, to GJLOS in international comparative context, to its integration in Kenya's relatively recent Medium Term Expenditure Framework, to institutional arrangements, M&E and beyond.

The team has had a series of in-country working trips, talking to more than 100 people working on or with GJLOS, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The draft report includes scores of recommendations for improving programme performance, which will be rigorously interrogated at the Mombasa workshop.


A decade of democracy: South Africa in review part 4

A decade of democracy: South Africa in review part 4 imageDavid Everatt reviews the 10 years since the democratic general election of 1994. The conclusion to this 4 part series.

Social grants

Social transfers are seriously inadequate: some 60% of the poor, or 11 million people, are without any social security transfers. Uptake of existing measures is also poor, dropping from 85% for the state old age pension to just 20% for the child support grant, while average uptake across all social grants is 43%. The 2003 budget widened the scope of grants (such as extending child support to cover 14 year olds) but the central challenge remains access and uptake. The recent Committee of Inquiry into a Comprehensive System of Social Security noted that the existing social security system "has the capacity to close 36.6% of the poverty gap" if all benefits were distributed to those entitled to them. But even with full uptake, still there would be some five million people living in poor households but ineligible for existing benefits.

Report of the Committee of Inquiry into a Comprehensive System of Social Security for South Africa (2002). Transforming the present - protecting the future. (Department of Social Development, Pretoria ).


There is often disagreement regarding what government has and has not delivered. The ANC was elected in 1994 on the basis of a basic needs programme as set out in the RDP. Measured in these terms, government has performed well, despite the high media profile given to the incidence of roll-overs, corruption and the like. A few examples will suffice: since 1994,

  • 1.4 million housing subsidies have been awarded;
  • 1.3 million houses have been built;
  • 2.8 million telephones have been installed;
  • over 3 million homes have been electrified.

Basic services are steadily being extended to South Africans including the rural poor, labelled ‘surplus people' by the apartheid government.

The problem government faces is not lack of resources - rather it is lack of capacity to spend those resources appropriately.

Moving to the programme design sphere, however, government put ‘poverty experts' to shame by producing an articulate, hard-hitting analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of its own post-1994 poverty eradication efforts in the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Strategy (ISRDS). The ISRDS naturally operated within government's neo-liberal framework and avoided deeper political issues, but offered a robust critique of government's attempt to make local government the driving force in bottom-up (i.e. demand-driven) development. According to the ISRDS, development was "beset by problems of co-ordination and communication", with the result that assets "rained apparently randomly from above, with little internal coherence or responsiveness to community priorities." 1

The ISRDS is a mechanism for aligning all three spheres of government behind local development priorities, but does have telling weaknesses that reflect some of the issues discussed above:

The ISRDS has not one but many goals, and it is unclear whether government sees the ISRDS spearheading a rural economic growth strategy or forming part of its existing rural anti-poverty strategy (heavily reliant on infrastructure provision). 2

The ISRDS failed to articulate an unambiguous rural economic growth strategy; rather, it mixed economic and social goals, blurring both in the process. This seemed to result from attitudes prevalent among many in the public and private sectors, which regard rural areas as inherently and uniformly unviable in economic terms. In this perspective, rural areas need basic infrastructure and their denizens need welfare support and basic survivalist skills - development as charity, with the purpose of eradicating infrastructural inequalities and assisting survivalist economic enterprises; no more ambitious economic goal is regarded as feasible.

(Source: 1996/1998 October Household Surveys; 2000 Labour Force Survey)


South Africa is a very young democracy, not yet ten years old. The growing pains of democracy are reflected in the intense debates that attend virtually every aspect of transforming society from apartheid to democracy. It is important to retain the capacity to see beneath posturing and disputation and identify the real issues at stake. This is often more difficult among South Africans than international visitors or observers - but it is precisely among South Africans that the capacity to focus on what really matters is most needed.

1 Independent Development Trust (2001) "The Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Strategy" ( Pretoria ).

2 Everatt D. (2002) "The nature and purpose of the ISRDP" (Independent Development Trust, Pretoria , mimeo), p.2.

This concludes our series taken from the special edition of Development Update ‘The real state of the nation'.

Copies of the journal can be obtained from Interfund Tel: 403 2966.


A scoping study on xenophobia

Atlantic Philanthropies ( South Africa ), appoints Strategy and Tactics (S&T) to manage a scoping study on xenophobia and human rights abuses in the handling of refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, by government agencies.

The Atlantic Philanthropies recently began implementing a programme to combat xenophobia and human rights abuses against refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in South Africa. In order to carry out further research on some of the issues Atlantic appointed Strategy and Tactics to manage some of the work to be carried. Moagi Ntsime and David Everatt are managing the project on behalf of Atlantic.

In this work Atlantic has a shared interest with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The SAHRC has a statutory responsibility for monitoring whether the target group is treated in accordance with domestic and international human rights norms and standards. Also, the SAHRC is charged with making recommendations for the redress of human rights abuses to government, based on the findings of its monitoring and research.

Firstly, S&T is expected to appoint a reference group for the study. The reference group is to advice, provide inputs, and review the findings of the study on the basis of their experience. It is envisaged that the reference group will comprise three/four representatives of NPOs working in the refugee and migrants sectors, the Director of Atlantic Philanthropies and SAHRC.

The research brief

The research brief for the study is:

  • To review and assess whether South African legislation and policy dealing with refugees asylum seekers and undocumented migrants is in line with the domestic constitution and the relevant international and regional human rights instruments,
  • Investigate the implications of how the target group is received, processed and integrated for South African compliance with these domestic and international instruments,
  • In particular the study would cover how the target group is dealt with by state agencies - the Department of Home Affairs, the South Africa Police Service the South African National Defence Force, the Department of Welfare, the criminal justice system and others,
  • The research is to review policies and practices applied in terms of reception, processing and integration of refugees and asylum seekers, as how people deemed to have contravened the law in terms of immigration legislation are arrested, held and deported. Of particular interest for the assignment are practices, procedures and conditions at the following;
  • Lindela reception centre in Gauteng;
  • The Home Affairs Office on Refugee Affairs at Rosenttenville, Johannesburg; and

The two main land border crossing with South Africa's largest migrant - producing neighbours ( Zimbabwe and Mozambique). Also, the researchers will conduct interviews with migrants who have recently crossed each of these borders. Finally, the researchers will carry out interviews with units responsible for patrolling the Mozambican border along the Kruger National Park.


Monitoring and evaluation of the Africa Drive Project

Monitoring and evaluation of the Africa Drive Project  imageStrategy and Tactics (S&T) has been commissioned by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), to do Monitoring and Evaluation of the Africa Drive Project (ADP).

Strategy and Tactics (S&T) was commissioned by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), on behalf of the Africa Drive Project (ADP), to render technical support on monitoring and evaluation for the new project looking at alleviating the shortage of suitably qualified teachers in the science, mathematics and technology (ICT) areas. Moagi Ntsime and Matthew Smith have been involved in carrying out the technical support to the project on M&E.

Key players in the project are; the Department of Education in the North West Province, the North West University as the political owner of the project, GTZ (German Technical Cooperation), SAP Corporate Research, Siemens Business Services, the Department of Finance of the North West Province, Paragon Development Forum, eDegree, Duxbury Networking and Network Appliance.

This initiative marked the beginning of a new education and training era for educators, through a scientifically based blended learning approach that will contribute tangibly to the delivery of new cadres of proficiently qualified science, mathematics, technology and business professionals in Africa.

The project develops, tests and will rollout new blended learner-centred learning strategies, utilising e-Learning (improving access, delivery and management) for in-service educators to improve their knowledge and skills (competencies) and to capacitate them to integrate ICT into the delivery of learning to their learners (students).

S&T's research brief

The terms of reference (ToRs) required S&T to design a framework for monitoring and evaluation in the ADP, with a particular focus on evaluating the impact of the programme as opposed to day-to-day monitoring of the project. More specifically, the Monitoring and Evaluation Task Team of the programme agreed that S&T must focus on the following:

  • Effectiveness of the Project Management Methodology
  • Appropriateness of the blended e-Learning Model, including the appropriateness of the content.
  • Effectiveness and efficiency of delivery of the model
  • The nature of the technology being used and whether it meets the needs of the end users
  • The cost-effectiveness of the technology and whether it is appropriate to the environment it is being used in
  • Changes in attitude and behaviour of the participants in the project
  • The sustainability of the project

The ToRs define three steps for developing a monitoring and evaluation process and continuous M&E of the ADP project as follows:

Phase One:

  • The identification and commissioning of a consultant and the activation of the Monitoring and Evaluation Task Team
  • Development/refining of the project schedule of the Evaluation and Monitoring Task Team
  • Identification of evaluation areas and criteria per subproject and for the overall project.
  • Development of evaluation process/methodology/framework on which the evaluation and monitoring of the project will be based

Phase Two:

  • Implementation of the evaluation and monitoring process and continuous evaluation and monitoring of the project
  • Continuous feedback
  • Submission of final report that could be used as a model for the evaluation and monitoring of similar projects
  • In line with these ToRs the draft evaluation and monitoring framework was presented to the sub-Project 6 Task Team.


Matthew, Erling Peterson, and the Office of the Premier in Gauteng.

Matthew, in conjunction with Erling Peterson, recently conducted a two-day M&E workshop for the Office of the Premier in Gauteng. In attendance were representatives from all the different Gauteng provincial departments. The workshop is part of a larger exercise in which Matthew and Erling are designing an M&E system for the Premier's office.

Survey of business and community leaders, and representatives of labour in the Western Cape

Matthew and Sihaam have just completed a survey of business and community leaders, and representatives of labour in the Western Cape. The study was commissioned by the Office of the Premier, Western Cape in order to gauge perceptions of the Premier's first ‘100 days' in office.

Matthew addresses the Directorate of International Conferences, Department of Foreign Affairs

The Directorate of International Conferences, Department of Foreign Affairs asked Matthew to address them on “The Role of Service Standards in Improving Service Delivery” as part of the Department's annual strategic planning process in December.

Nobi reports on social investment initatives

Nobi recently presented the final report of case studies into social investment initatives with the Swiss Private Sector in South Africa to coporate sponsors of the Swiss South African Co-operation Initiative.

David serving on organising committees of three different international conferences

David is currently serving on the organising committees of three different international conferences, namely Oslo 2005 Childhoods, the Development Bank's ‘Knowledge Management Africa' conference (2005) and the Research Committee 34 – ‘Sociology of Youth' – component of the International Sociological Association World Congress, due to be held in Durban in July 2006.

Matthew and Geetesh published in the South African Medical Journal

Matthew and Geetesh (one of our non-executive directors) recently published an article in the South African Medical Journal with two health professionals from the University of the Western Cape . The full reference is: Lalloo R, Smith MJ, Myburgh NG, Solanki GC. (2004) Access to health care in South Africa – the influence of race and class. S Afr Med J; 94: 639-642.

Ross and Matthew doing work for the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU).

Ross and Matthew are currently developing a performance monitoring and reporting system for the the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU). This project is part of a larger programme conducted under the auspices of the Independent Project Trust, to provide technical assistance to the management of the AFU.

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