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This article is taken from the June 1999 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

S&T monitoring municipal infrastructure

In early 1999, S&T tendered for the management of the Consolidated Municipal Infrastructure Programme (CMIP), alongside Epa, BKS and others. CMIP is one of the largest programmes undertaken by government. The programme aims to provide basic levels of services to low income households while also contributing to other government strategic and intervention policy objectives. We were very excited to win the tender.

The programme targets vulnerable communities and sectors of society like women, youth and the disabled for job creation. The programme is being re-directed towards meeting the developmental objectives of local government as expressed in various policy documents.

Previous experience

The Department indicated that their experience in previous programmes was not satisfactory, especially with regard to issues of development focus and monitoring. This sentiment corroborated some of our experiences in setting up monitoring systems for national Departments involved in similar programmes to CMIP. Our experience of monitoring systems for anti-poverty programmes has not been positive, as discussed on page one.

For national Departments to monitor critical indicators is not always an easy exercise. In addition, it normally takes time to find a common understanding and purpose for the team involved. Those involved in the system need to own it, to ensure that they put more effort to make it work. The implementation and support teams are central to the success or failure of the entire programme. They need to understand the intended outcome of the system, and its importance. In CMIP, speed of delivery was not the key criterion for judging success or failure. Rather, poverty measurements are now used to assess whether the programme achieved its objectives or not. According to the Chief Directorate in CMIP, their previous programme experience was different. Implementing agencies were insufficiently concerned with development objectives during implementation, but focused on technical proficiency and speed of delivery. There was also little emphasis on communicating progress to South Africans. Monitoring focused on the progress of construction rather than on performance and impact regarding key development indicators.

As such, there were fewer systems in place to assist with the attainment of development objectives. To use the expression of a senior member of the Department, "the previous programme was driven by engineers who concerned themselves only with the laying down of pipes with no development dimension whatsoever".

New challenges for CMIP

The new programme is ambitious. That being the case, the programme must keep all players in touch and working together. To directly address the legacies of the past, it must develop people who will facilitate and monitor development.

The S&T monitoring system will be in place to assist the Department in assessing whether the intended targets are being met or not. Community empowerment and job creation, the empowerment of women and young people and similar Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will need to be monitored at all levels of the programme.

This calls for dedicated individuals to account on a regular basis as to how and why certain targets were - or were not - not reached. This is always the most difficult aspect of monitoring: to ensure that those who are involved in the programme do not perceive the monitoring exercise as a "Big Brother" situation. A sense of appreciation will have to be cultivated and inculcated for those involved in the programme to accept the importance of the monitoring exercise, for this to become part of managing the entire process of poverty alleviation.

On the other hand, the Department will have to come to terms with the fact that it cannot monitor everything. The system will have to be manageable and simple. Some of the desired KPIs will have to be excluded if administrative costs are to be kept in check.

As the new CMIP swings into operation, it will be equipped with a monitoring system that should allow all those involved - from workers to government officials - to know where they are, how they are performing, and what their weak points are. Decisions should be easier to take, and based on data. S&T regards this job as one of the most important we shall be involved in for the next couple of years.

 

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