Designing a monitoring system for the IDT The Independent Development Trust (IDT) has been contracted by the Department of Welfare to manage its R203m Poverty Relief and Infrastructure Investment Fund. This, the second grant awarded to the Department, builds on a R50m grant received in the 1997/98 financial year. The IDT has commissioned S&T to undertake a review of the R50m grant; to design and pilot a monitoring instrument; and to design and help implement a monitoring system.
South Africa's welfare system before 1994, characterised by disparities
and inequality, focused on various specialities and the provision of rehabilitative
and institutional services.
The 1997 White Paper for Social Welfare set the scene for transforming welfare
services to an approach that would "lead to self-sufficiency and sustainability".
Through the current Poverty Relief and Infrastructure Investment Fund, the
Department is trying to position its programmes within a developmental approach
to welfare services.
Monitoring the R50m grant
There seems to be consensus amongst Departmental personnel that the monitoring
system for the first grant was inadequately conceptualised and designed, and
that monitoring of projects was inadequate. A private consultancy, appointed
to assist in the management of the programme, was briefed to collate the provincial
monitoring reports into an integrated monthly report, and visit and monitor
The actual monitoring process was left up to each province to develop, depending
on their capacity. Although a standardised reporting format was eventually
devised, a number of provinces in the interim developed their own format and
were reluctant to change.
In most provinces, projects were not visited on a regular basis and, in
some instances, were not visited at all. The reports submitted by funded projects
were extremely limited and focused purely on financial issues. A number of
projects did not submit reports for the entire funding period.
Reasons cited for the failure of the monitoring system included lack of
departmental capacity to manage the programme; the emphasis on financial aspects
of the projects; the inaccessibility of the monitoring instruments, and the
complexity of the task, given the wide range of projects.
Monitoring the R203m fund
Where does this leave the monitoring system for the R203m Fund? The Department
of Welfare still lacks the capacity to manage the day-to-day activities of
the programme efficiently and effectively. A new institutional arrangement
has been developed to try and address this.
Non-governmental organisations in each province have been contracted to
serve as cluster co-ordinators, responsible for a number of projects. Their
main tasks are to monitor the activities and progress of the projects and
help build grass-roots capacity. The IDT is expected to play a largely supervisory
role, ensuring that all actors are fulfilling their roles and responsibilities.
On the surface this appears to be an improved system that plugs many of
the gaps from the previous system. However, not all of the cluster co-ordinators
appear to have the capacity to administer the monitoring instruments on a
regular basis. There are also a number of projects for which cluster co-ordinators
have not been appointed. Furthermore, the capacity of provincial departments
to deliver regular feedback on cluster co-ordinators is questionable, given
Aside from the capacity of certain actors, there are additional questions
that can be raised about the envisaged system:
- Can projects be expected to provide honest feedback on the cluster co-ordinators
when it is the cluster co-ordinators themselves collecting the feedback
at project level?
- Will a cluster co-ordinator provide truthful information on a project
when their continued employment in the programme depends on the project
continuing to receive funding?
Implications for monitoring
For a well-designed and well-maintained monitoring system, considerable
resourcing is needed. But anti-poverty programmes cannot have high administrative
overheads: money is primarily aimed at helping those most in need.
The monitoring system that the Department of Welfare is looking to implement
is time-consuming and costly. The capacity-building of those on the ground
will need to be counter-balanced with a system that can still deliver if capacity
is lacking. We need to ensure that the time it takes to bring cluster co-ordinators
and provincial departments up to speed does not delay or compromise the collecting
of appropriate and useful data.