Sticking to the Numbers: Performance Monitoring in South Africa, 2009-2011
Focus: Centers of Government, Civil Service
Topics: Inter-ministerial coordination, Evaluation and Performance, Performance Management System
Type: Case Studies
Author: Jonathan (Yoni) Friedman
Keywords: performance management, accountability, service delivery
President Jacob Zuma took office in 2009 amid a wave of demonstrations by South Africans protesting the government’s poor record in delivering basic services. During the 15 years since the end of apartheid, South Africa had made strides in extending basic services to previously underserved communities, but frustration with the pace of progress boiled over in early 2009. During his first month in office, Zuma established a Ministry of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation to improve service delivery by ministries. Two key officials in the new ministry, Ketso Gordhan and Ronette Engela, identified three major reasons for the government’s poor performance: a lack of accountability at the upper levels of ministries, decentralized and often ad hoc policy planning, and poor interministerial coordination. They devised a system that reorganized ministries around 12 policy goals and set data-based performance targets for ministers and departments. They succeeded in focusing departments on setting measurable performance targets, but as political support waned, the sustainability of the system came into doubt. This case study offers insights on building the accountability of managers in the civil service and improving the quality of policy planning by setting measurable performance targets.