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This article is taken from the December 2000 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

S&T Monitoring Systems

S&T's senior partner David Everatt looks at the growth of S&T, from a new player to the key provider of monitoring systems for anti-poverty programmes in South Africa and beyond.

S&T: the key player in monitoring systems in SA

In just two years, S&T has emerged as a leading provider of development monitoring systems, in South Africa and beyond.

When S&T was founded two years ago, one of our main goals was to provide a mechanism which would allow the tools of applied research to be situated closer to the point of implementation and decision-making in development projects, and anti-poverty programmes in particular. Monitoring mechanisms were a key means of achieving this. They allowed us to combine our extensive experience of survey and other quantitative research with development delivery and management.

We found a situation where few other companies were focusing on monitoring systems, and those that did so were fixated on high-tech equipment that simply could not function in the context of anti-poverty programmes. Government's monitoring systems were weak, and monitoring itself regarded as an administrative function that could be handed over to secretaries. This situation still obtains in many places. The result: weak monitoring systems that did not fit the circumstances, and demotivated staff who regarded monitoring either as policing or an irrelevance.

Since then, we have designed monitoring systems for the Labour Market Skills Development Programme, the Labour Market Information and Statistics Directorate in the Department of Labour, for the 'War on Poverty' of the Department of Welfare (implemented by the Independent Development Trust), and others. We run monitoring and evaluation studies for the Department of Public Works, which includes a national quality of life survey, verification studies to check monitoring data accuracy, and fast turn-around diagnostics. We analyse the output of the monitoring system for the Consolidated Municipal Infrastructure Programme, South Africa's largest infrastructure delivery vehicle. The Client Satisfaction Tool, designed for Health Systems Trust to measure the attitudes of patients to the health care system, is poised for broad implementation. In Kenya, our baseline survey next year will also lead into a national monitoring framework for development and civic education. The list goes on, and S&T is extremely proud to be so heavily involved in a key aspect of governance.

Two years since S&T was founded, the situation is changing. The emphasis on delivery - the hallmark of the current government - requires detailed impact and performance monitoring, to know whether targets are being met, and how efficient government, parastatals and partners are in delivering development.

In that time, S&T has consulted to a wide range of government departments involved in delivery, and we serve on the programme management teams of some of the key development programmes of government. This has culminated in the huge national study currently under way, of developing a national monitoring framework to serve Cabinet clusters. This was won by S&T in a consortium including MXA, Simeka and Khanya, in a highly competitive tender against some of big international financial and management companies and their local counterparts.

Some departments have been badly burned, by consultants peddling extremely expensive systems that look good on Powerpoint and fail completely in the field. Many others have implemented internal performance monitoring, through performance agreements. Slowly a culture of monitoring - as a key part of management - is emerging within government. And S&T is perfectly positioned to meet the demand for monitoring systems that are affordable; that meet the needs of project implementors and workers as well as managers; that provide reliable and accurate data in good time; and that allow integration with evaluative strategies.

 

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