Government gets serious about performance measurement

Government has been severely criticised for its lack of service delivery. The Department of Performance Management and Evaluation has been tasked with measuring government’s performance overall. That’s no small task.
1 November 2011
photo: Suzanne GellDr Solomon Bhunu, DPME, has been tasked with ensuring the appropriate sytems are put in place to measure government performance.

The Department of Performance Management and Evaluation (otherwise known as the DPME) has a large task on its hands – to measure the performance of government as a whole and track that back to 12 Outcomes that map to government’s strategic priorities. According to government’s Guide to the Outcomes Approach, each outcome has a ‘limited number of measurable outputs and sub outputs as well as clear targets’.

These priorities are what government is focussing on from 2010 to 2014 and President Jacob Zuma has signed performance agreements with each minister based on these outcomes.

CIO in the DPME, Dr Solomon Bhunu, is tasked with ensuring appropriate systems are put in  place to measure exactly what government does, from national level down, in relation to each of these outcomes.

12 Outcomes

1. Improved quality of basic
2. A long and healthy life for all South Africans
3. All people in South Africa feel safe
4. Decent employment through inclusive economic growth
5. A skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path
6. An efficient, competitive and responsive economic infrastructure network
7. Vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities, with food security for all
8. Sustainable human settlements and improved quality of household life
9. A responsive, accountable, effective and efficient local government system
10. Environmental assets and natural resources that are well protected and
continually enhanced
11. Create a better South Africa and contribute to a better and safer Africa and world
12. An efficient, effective and development-oriented public service and an empowered, fair and inclusive citizenship

Government departments, he says, are clustered around these 12 Outcomes, to make sure that the desired result is achieved.

“Our IT strategy is based on the business needs of the department to measure and evaluate performance – meaning we need performance information, if it is there.”

And while the DPME is a new department, monitoring and measurement is not new to government.

“The President has had a Programme of Action (PoA) for the past four or five years,” Bhunu says. “This was a reporting platform based on the State of the Nation address, translated into a Programme of Action and then the implementation of those issues was reported on.

“That tool has evolved from a PoA into a monitoring and evaluation system. Initially, the PoA was a reporting front end. The performance management and evaluation system we’ve developed is multi-layered, and allows stakeholders to input information directly.”

This is restricted to national and provincial government at the moment, but will be extended all the way down to district level in the future.

Phase One of the project has just been completed, says Bhunu, and has seen the system taken to provincial level. Phase Two will depend on the data systems ‘out there in government infrastructures’.

The programme involves working with departments to ensure they have systems in place. “Often it will be a simple process to put in place a system to ensure data is collected and captured and stored, even if on paper, and can then be inputted into the PME tool,” Bhunu comments.

Bigger picture

What Bhunu and his team have put in place is an IT platform that supports BI. This has been done by PragmaticWorks SA, which won the tender for the deal. On top of this BI platform is the Programme of Action module. Another module – Frontline Service Delivery – is underway and several other modules are planned.

“Phase One for the PoA was building the platform for all the modules,” Bhunu says. “Phase Two is rolling out to all government levels and ensuring systems are in place to access data.”

The Frontline Service Delivery module will be used to monitor frontline services for citizens, he says, for example, if you go to Home Affairs, what experience did you have?

“Another module we are going to build is the Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT), which will measure the institutional capabilities of a department. A further module is the Development Indicator Module, which collects development indicators from established sources (like Global Insights). This used to be a function of the department.”

As a support function to the BI platform, an integrated business analysis interface is being built. This, says Bhunu, “will allow us to pull in performance information for all modules and generate reports.

Global view

What the DPME is doing is typically characterised
as an open government initiative.
“Open government,” says founder and CEO of Government in the Lab, John Moore, “is a citizen-centric philosophy and strategy that believes the best results are usually driven by partnerships between citizens and government, at all levels. It is focussed entirely on achieving goals through increased efficiency, better
management, information transparency, and citizen engagement, and most often leverages newer technologies to achieve the desired outcomes. This is bringing business approaches and business
technologies to government.
“Open government delivers value in three primary areas: reducing the operating cost of government, increasing the
quality of services delivered to citizens, and creating jobs through the growth of new markets,” he notes.

“For example, if we have a housing issue, we can get housing information from the MPAT, which might say we don’t have capacity. Then the FLS may tell us service is poor and we can then look at the outcome on housing and realise it’s been poorly delivered. Then we can look at the indicators to see where we measure up. It will give us an ability to get an integrated report [on an issue].

“Closely linked to this is the famous Presidential Hotline, which will be integrated too,” he adds. “It makes sense because the issues raised on the hotline could be caused by a departmental performance issue or they could be development indicators, so there should be that synergy between the call centre data and the data in the BI modules.”

The department will also be collecting data generated outside of its systems, by bodies like the JSE, web data systems that broadcast information, and government departments like Treasury and Stats SA, which have well-established systems, and newer sources like the Department of Communications’ recently launched eBarometer.

Moving forward

Phase One officially concluded at the end of October and the system now has to be officially commissioned. Phase Two will kick off two or three weeks after the end of Phase One (late November in other words) and will see the PoA extended into new areas.

In a bid to extend the system’s usefulness, Bhunu says they hope to create interfaces to the Sharepoint system so that provincial departments can capture data related to the 12 Outcomes, plus their own issues that they need to monitor. This will save on costs, he says, noting that the DPME system has cost R500 000.

“We want to get as many departments using it as possible, and we don’t want to see them being charged R30 million to put a similar system in place,” he says.

The next nearest competitive bid for the DPME’s system was for R30 million, he comments. “In building the system, we need to send the right message in terms of not throwing money at it but rather looking for the best and trying to save resources.”