"Ahh... I have been here at the hospital waiting for several hours for a doctor (medical). We have been without water for days. We phoned the police for help but they took long to arrive at the scene."
These are desperate statements common among people complaining about poor service delivery and inefficient performance.
Experts explain performance management as conclusion of activities which ensure that goals are consistently met in an effective and efficient manner. Performance management can focus on the performance of an organization, a department, and employee, to build a product of service. Service delivery is about delivering services as effectively as possible to the satisfaction and delight of the people (customer).
Service delivery of any nature is all about capability, processes and procedures simply enable projects and services to be delivered according to a particular standard and with consistency. People need to appreciate what is being delivered. With the ongoing hope for 'political stability' and promising economic growth in most African countries, poor management and service delivery is still a challenge facing many citizens, alongside poverty and growing inequality in the society.
The challenges in performance management and services delivery have been widely felt in the judiciary system, police, the education sector, health care, public offices, and supply of utilities (water), of which the majority people complain of as 'inappropriate'.
A poor person in Zanzibar and in Tanzania has at one time in his/her life experienced inconveniences caused by poor management and poor services delivery. The majority including leaders agree that there should be more to be done to improve it. At the 34th African Association for Public Administration and Management (AAPAM) Roundtable conference in Zanzibar, civil servants who attended the meeting accepted that pubic service delivery particularly at local administration remain poor and improvement is inevitable.
Top leaders of Zanzibar, President Ali Mohamed Shein, and Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi also mentioned in their speeches at the opening and closing of the conference, that governments need to do more to improve performance management and public services delivery.
Performance management and improving service delivery is one of the key mandates of governments, and arguably constitutions and individual political party manifesto clearly states that every citizen is entitled to a better service. Consciously, politicians make a lot of pledges, which in most cases fail to implement to the expectations of their electorate due to lack of capacity and commitment to deliver on promises in the short term.
Analysts argue that normally voters find themselves in dilemma because they want to vote for a party that will deliver better services to the community. People have it in mind that service delivery should be something that brings a smile to a citizen's face, not anger, frustration and probably death.
Human rights activists in Africa say that it is disturbing to read, listen and watch news about citizens protesting over basic services like water, sanitation, school and electricity, and that governments tend to forget when setting up priorities and addressing shortfalls in social services comes 'last'. "Every citizen has the right to life and has the right to protest against poor service delivery from the government.
A government must deliver services to the community as promised to avoid complaints which sometimes end in violence," Hassan Omar, human rights activist in Zanzibar says. He adds, "Police also have the right to take action against law breakers. However, the rule of law does not grant a police officer a right to harass, threaten or to kill the poor, frustrated, angry communities."
During the five days discussion on 'performance management and public service delivery,' participants including cabinet ministers, heads of public/civil services, Permanent/Principal secretaries, heads of management development, and other higher ranking government officials said they were concerned with increasing citizens' voice for quality and service delivery.
The delegates, about 420 of them from across the African Continent exchanged experiences and discussed 'performance management for improving public service delivery in Africa.' Several AAPAM partner organizations such as IPAC, UNDESA, and CIDA attended the five days meeting. Causes of poor service delivery Absenteeism at work, laziness, congestions, waiting for hours for a service, use of unfriendly language by services providers, like nurses and medical doctors, and inhospitable environment, are reasons behind poor performance.
But studies have also revealed that poor service delivery in many African countries is caused by corruption, incompetent staffs, uncaring leadership, lack of servant leadership and commitment to 'excellence.' Poor service delivery is also attributed to lack of skills in assessment, visionary thinking, effective planning, and implementation; bureaucracy, and inefficient structures; ineffective systems; poor accountability, and general unresponsiveness in government institutions; and unwillingness to change (business-as-usual); and cultural factors also contribute to the situation.
In Zanzibar, critics also associate poor performance management and poor services delivery to nepotism and politically motivated appointments, and that some of the appointed leaders and staffs are incapable. Some analysts say that better service delivery is being hampered by the failure to manage the relationship between political and administrative authority, resulting in rifts between ministers, directors, and senior executives in respective office/department.
How to improve performance and service delivery In his speech before the conference closed, the second Vice-President, Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi, said, "the initiatives made by AAPAM to conduct the conference is a positive step to addressing the challenges that impede the optimization of performance management for improved service delivery."
"We need to recognize that it is only through exchanges of knowledge, ideas, and experiencesÉ that we can seriously assist our countries to improve their public service," Iddi added, as the AAPAM president, Dr Abdon Agaw Jok Nhial, emphasized on commitment to reforms.
Opening the conference, President Ali Mohamed Shein urged Public Servants in African countries to adopt positive work attitudes that would contribute to improved public service delivery "because people expect improved services and therefore civil servants should change." He said: "We share the same concern with the rest of Africa, and for that matter with the entire world, to create a public service that is based on good governance, accountability, and responsiveness," he said in the speech.
However, Shein said that the implementation of various forms of performance management system in the public sector is not without challenges such as "failure to integrate performances management systems in the institutions, resistance to change (fear of unknown), limited resource, and lack of political will to support." Shein stressed that performance management movement in the public sector is irreversible because it forms the basis for transformation to deliver better services.
"Our citizens are no longer solely interested in the administration of law but also in the quality of services that are rendered and outcomes that accrue from the government intervention." The Minister of State, President's Office - Public Service Management, Ms Celina Kombani, asked 'obedient civil servants' who attended the conference to be ready to change aiming at achieving better services delivery.
Public Servants at the 34th AAPAM conference called for major reforms to ensure that they deliver the right services, to the right people, in the right places and keep pace with community expectations or needs. They said they need enabling environment to practise professionalism; commitment and empathy because citizens expect their governments to provide services that use modern technology -- to be as convenient, accessible, and not time consuming.
At the end of AAPAM Roundtable conference in Zanzibar, with high turn-up of delegates ever in the history of the Association, the civil servants drummed for an enabling environment because civil servants have been always blamed for the problems. "Studies show that performance management succeeds where there is political will and commitment to reforms in public service, and performance management system require an enabling environment that is realizable through strengthening of institutions.
" They observed that global financial crisis adds to the challenges of service delivery "hence the need for a culture of continuous improvement, innovation and values of good governance." The next AAPAM conference is to be held in Kigali, Rwanda in November 2013.
Recommendations after AAPAM Zanzibar conference advise that countries should consider implementation of performance management a key driver of reform in public sector, and that it should be viewed as a way of realising development goals including MDGs. "In the implementation of performance management systems it is critical to ensure the component of both internal and external stakeholders involvement and engagement; and performance management should be clearly defined and contextualised to suit the unique circumstances of each country," the civil servants recommended.
The civil servants said further in their end of conference communique: "Human resource development is key component in the successful implementation, and for performance management to remain relevant it must demonstrate results in improved service delivery, cost cutting and value for money." In efforts to encourage commitment, AAPAM awarded four organizations for recognizing their innovations in the public sector.
The winners are Kenya Diesel Powered DEFTEC Made Mobile Field Kitchen (GOLD); Mauritius Setting up a modern land administration and management system (SILVER); GhanaMobile Technology for communication Health-MOTECH (Bronze), and Ghana Systems Automation Integration at Kotota International Airport (Glass Trophies).