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This article is taken from the June 1999 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

Public Works Programme monitored and evaluated

Since 1994/95, the Department of Public Works has focused not simply on delivery, but on delivery with special concern for poor communities. Methods of uplifting poor communities have involved community empowerment, community participation in identifying projects, project management, poverty alleviation, and post-project involvement of local communities. During all these processes, important lessons were accumulated, and were used in re-aligning the Department's Community-Based Public Works Programme (CBPWP). The issue of monitoring emerged as central to the successful realisation of the other components of the CBPWP.

Lessons from the evaluation process

The 1997 evaluation of the CBPWP conducted by C A S E and the ILO (Moagi Ntsime and David Everatt were key members of the team) noted that South Africa has probably one of the best public works programme in the world. The report further indicated that technical design standards and the quality of completed physical infrastructure surpassed anything the ILO members of the evaluation team had previously encountered. The programme nevertheless had shortcomings. A key failing being the monitoring component of the programme.

The evaluation drew a distinction between monitoring progress and performance. Progress monitoring involves keeping track of disbursements, work days created and so on. Performance monitoring focuses on programme outputs and the overall programme impact. Neither was adequately performed. The evaluation team found that there was no reliable data to assist the team in drawing conclusions about the performance of the programme, let alone to inform programme managers as they went about their work.

In response to the evaluation, in early 1998 the Department formed a Pre-Implementation Task Team (PITT) to assist in preparations for the next phase of programme implementation. Moagi was in charge of monitoring and evaluation on the task team; David was responsible for targeting, which he worked on with Ross Jennings.

According to the then Public Works Deputy Director-General, Lulu Gwagwa, the evaluation team, while criticising the monitoring system, did not analyse the nature of the problem in detail. This was Moagi's task on PITT. This started with a detailed reconstruction of the existing data-path, from projects to national office. What was found was common enough: provincial department staff, already busy, were told to collate data from (erratic) project reports, tabulate the data and send it to Pretoria. The result: weak data, which was mostly unreliable. In many instances, the same data were reported month after month. No one checked or verified anyone else's data. The system was chaotic.

Current situation

The Department has worked hard to try to ensure that monitoring activities constitute an integral part of the entire poverty alleviation programme during and after its implementation. Moagi's report to PITT was accepted, and S&T was given the task of analysing monitoring data for the current programme, Anti-Poverty Programme-274 (APP-274). The programme has just started the implementation phase, and we are facing a fascinating challenge, to make the system work - not just to produce accurate data, but to do so in sufficient time for it to be useful to programme managers.

S&T will be working on this project at least until the end of 1999.

 

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