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This article is taken from the March 2002 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

S&T leads an audit of sports, recreation, arts & culture facilities

S&T partner Moagi Ntsime describes a multi-agency audit of facilities for the Gauteng Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts & Culture.

The Gauteng Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture (DSRAC) has funded a number of initiatives to build infrastructure and provide a wide range of services, in order to help address past imbalances. Most of the funding has been administered through local government and has included upgrading existing facilities and constructing new sports, recreation, arts, heritage and library facilities. However, the Department lacked systematic information regarding infrastructure both inherited from the past and commissioned post-1994. The Department commissioned an audit of services in order to fill the information gap and inform future planning.

INITIAL FOCUS OF THE AUDIT

Initially, the Department wanted an audit as well as a planning study and impact evaluation - conducted within tight timelines and an even tighter budget. The Department wanted to identify where the greatest need lies, where more resources needed to be channelled, and to establish if existing facilities served their intended purpose. However, in close discussion with the Department, the scope of the project was narrowed, and it was agreed that an audit was a necessary first step. Even here, the audit had to cover a wide range of issues, from utilisation to funding to future planning.

Given the very tight timeframe, the need for full provincial coverage and the complexity of required information, the Department commissioned four consulting firms (S&T, Mahube Development Services cc, Gandhi Maseko Architects Lingelihle cc, and Lehlabile Development), each responsible for a specific region.

S&T was appointed as project manager, with responsibility for co-ordinating the activities of the other three companies. In other words, S&T was responsible for the overall management of the audit process and consolidation of the final composite audit report, as well as ensuring that the companies delivered as per their scope of work. S&T was also responsible for auditing facilities in the West Rand and Johannesburg areas.
After lengthy discussions, the focus of the audit was settled:

  • To establish the precise spatial location of all facilities,
  • To assess the physical condition of facilities,
  • To assess the utilisation of facilities generally and by the target community,
  • To establish whether the facilities serve their intended purpose,
  • To establish where more resources need to be channelled, and
  • Analysing the above to develop appropriate recommendations for the Department.

POSSIBLE CHALLENGES FACING FIELD WORK

After finalising the focus areas for the audit, we were confronted with one fundamental challenge - the Department did not have an existing database or list of assets for which it was responsible. There was no register of facilities under the DSRAC in Gauteng. Registers or lists were said to be with local municipalities, often not updated or properly stored.

Obviously this created huge problems for the partners - we could not visit any facility in the province before generating a list of facilities indicating location and names, lest we audited incorrect assets. It was difficult to know how long fieldwork would take, how many fieldworkers were needed, or how much it would cost!

As a result, in carrying out the audit we followed two research methods. Firstly, we reviewed all existing documentation to try and generate a comprehensive list of all facilities under the auspices of the Department in each region within the province. Each research team responsible for a specific region had to ensure that such a list was generated. This was done with the assistance of local government offices.

Secondly, upon generating a comprehensive facility list, a semi-structured questionnaire was developed in conjunction with the Department to survey facilities throughout the province. We also used a snowball approach whereby if facilities were identified during our fieldwork but not included in the initial list, these were added to the list and also audited.

IMPLEMENTATION HURDLES

It is important to note a number of hurdles that were encountered by the research teams. As indicated above, the Department did not have a comprehensive list available to be used immediately to visit or survey facilities. The research teams spent a great deal of time - even with the assistance of the Department - in generating lists.

Secondly, the study was commissioned during the November/December period. Most participants key to the study within local government structures had either gone or were about to go on leave, adding time to the project. The fieldwork phase had to be delayed; where possible it was carried out over the holiday period, often with limited success. This impacted directly on the initial timeframe agreed to with the Department for this exercise.

The third obstacle was in terms of lines of accountability. While S&T had to co-ordinate the work of the other consultants, this was not made clear in their contracts or scope of work. This had to be resolved before S&T could proceed with the job - we had to have the requisite authority to do the job the Department wanted us to do.

Finally, while the timeframe was tight, it took considerable time to (a) agree on budgets with the client and (b) get signed contracts in place before commencing with the exercise. Some consultants commenced with the exercise in the hope that budgets would be negotiated and contracts signed. In the case of S&T, we decided that unless we had agreed with the client (a) the scope of work, (b) resources or budgetary implications, (c) methods of disbursement, and (d) a common understanding of the expected deliverables, we were not able to go-ahead with the project. While this was ultimately resolved, it impacted on the timeframe and the implementation plan. S&T nonetheless deployed appropriate resources and produced high quality data in good time.

LESSONS FROM THIS EXERCISE

Most development projects present challenges you are expected to deal with and resolve. But this also includes trying to resolve problems where the client is unclear on their needs. Therefore, it is important that you enter a process of identifying and then agreeing on the best options to serve the needs of the client. Positive results are not always guaranteed: often the misunderstandings deepen and the project fails. This is a critical lesson for both the service provider and those who are in need of the service. It is important to raise your debates above your own deep-seated paradigm and personalities.

Stemming from this point, having clearly defined the needs, scope of work, time implications, resource implications and so on, it is important to ensure that the ToRs are simple, clear and unambiguous; most importantly, they must reflect both your understanding and interpretation and that of the client. Only on having signed and agreed to the ToR are you able to operate within a concrete framework. This protects both client and service provider, and enhances the prospect of producing good quality outputs, in turn helping the Department to deepen its impact among the poor.

 

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