/ 29 October 2010

Zuma’s hotline one of the gripes

The Public Service Commission’s (PSC’s) 2010 report on the state of the public service casts a sharp and often unflattering eye on the one-million-employee state sector and its ability to deliver on a mandate that ranges from the provision of houses to creating a more equal society. Some insights include:

  • In the municipal sphere ward committees were dysfunctional and the “calibre of ward councillors” posed a challenge. The report noted public concerns that councillors’ interests were not about community concerns and delivering services but with “the accrual of wealth”.

    The report alluded to a 2009 department of local government review of municipalities, which noted “a culture of patronage and nepotism is now so widespread in many municipalities that the formal municipal accountability system is ineffective and inaccessible to many citizens”.

  • The PSC’s evaluation of various departments’ skills development plans found that only 48% of those sampled were based on “thorough skills analysis and in only 12% of cases was the service delivery impact of the skills development activities accessed”.

    Most departments had skills development plans in place, but the PSC voiced doubts about their “credibility”. Government human resource departments “lacked credible strategies to attract and retain a competent workforce”, the report found.

  • Many housing projects had been undertaken in areas of low levels of need and low developmental potential. The PSC found that 2 461 housing projects, comprising 560 532 units — 50,6% of total — were being built in areas of low need, compared with 1 121 (23,1% of total) in areas of medium and high need and developmental potential.

    The report noted that municipal “capacity challenges” and “the risk of corruption” meant the criteria for housing allocations were “many times not applied fairly or transparently”.

  • There were severe medical shortcomings at clinics — 64% of those visited did not have a sufficient stock of medicines, 82% had insufficient medical equipment, 82% were not equipped with computers and 81% suffered staff shortages.
  • Very low levels of resolutions of citizens’ service delivery complaints on President Jacob Zuma’s hotline.

    The report noted that in the two months between its launch on September 14 last year and November 20, the hotline received 13 569 calls related to provincial departments and 13 634 to national departments. Just 17% of provincial queries and 39% of national queries were resolved by the end of November.

    The report said the low resolution levels would adversely affect the hotline’s credibility.

    The PSC report also noted that budgeting and financial management were “a critical aspect of accountability which would need greater attention”.