The most effective way to dramatically improve service delivery is to obtain accurate measures of performance.
What gets measured gets done.
Recognising this, President Jacob Zuma has set up a special division in the Presidency, presided over by its own Minister, to focus specifically on performance management monitoring and evaluation (M&E). The time has now come for government departments concerned with service delivery to implement a M&E system.
“Often, too long is spent on analysis and strategy around M&E,” says Justine Morgan, a director of Asyst Intelligence, which has developed an effective performance management and evaluation system that is well suited to the public sector.
“The secret is to actually get going, instead of continuing to plan,” she says. “A fully-inclusive PM solution is often simply too big to tackle all at once – and departments tend to get bogged down. Instead, they should start in one, clearly-defined area. Once they have tangible results as well as commitment and buy-in, they can then expand further.”
Morgan says that Zuma’s appointment of Collins Chabane as the Minister for Performance Management Monitoring and Evaluation underlines the importance of M&E for government.
“There is a huge need for M&E in public sector throughout the world,” says Morgan, citing the well-documented example of former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, who dramatically reduced crime by introducing a system of monitoring and evaluation at all levels in the NYC organisation. Armed with accurate information he was able to introduce measures to successfully fight crime in the city.
“One can introduce wonderful campaigns but if they are not measured and visible, they are highly unlikely to yield results,” she says. “By starting small, with a few key performance indicators (KPIs), one can get buy-in and get going.”
Important factors for success in any M&E roll-out include making measurement meaningful, taking ownership of targets or goals, and keeping things simple. “Measure only certain key factors to start and ensure that simple, visual presentation of data gives real information,” she says.
Any performance management and evaluation system must have clear, tangible and measurable delivery priorities and objectives. Once these have been identified, they need to be highly visible.
Morgan says that it is vital that the M&E system is able to access both structured and unstructured data. “Structured data, such as that kept in financial systems, can be pulled through and displayed very easily,” says Morgan. “However, it is important that the PM system is also able to pull in unstructured data, such as information about KPIs, black economic empowerment (BEE) and corporate social responsibility, for example. The system therefore needs to be flexible and should also offer different types of reporting on, and monitoring of, the data.”
It is important that people trust the data in the system, and there must therefore be accountability for the accuracy of the data, as well as an approval process so that the data is a true reflection of reality. “Monitoring and evaluation only work if there is an outcomes perspective,” says Morgan. “People have to take responsibility for what is being delivered.”
Data must also be updated regularly so that people can see that certain measures are having an effect. A tangible example of M&E in action may be a municipality wanting to improve access to electricity. Measures may include:
* How many applications have been received?
* How many have been processed?
* Has there been a reduction in the past month?
“The measures can then be combined with information from the call centre, to see if there has been any reduction in the number of complaints regarding basic infrastructure,” says Morgan.
She warns that there are challenges around the implementation of any M&E system, but says that as long as one is aware of them, these can be managed.
* Lack of accountability;
* Lack of skills and the tendency for trained people to move out of the public sector;
* Lack of data and systems at some of the lower levels of government, such as in rural municipalities; and
* Disparate data that needs to be pulled in from a variety of sources.
“Change management is vital, and continual training is necessary to ensure buy-in from various bodies, departments and Directors-General,” she concludes.