South Africa will put improved performance by the state, particularly the public service, at the core of how the government conducts business over the next five years, President Jacob Zuma said in Cape Town on Friday.
Responding to the debate on his State of the Nation address in Parliament, Zuma said: "We want government to deliver services faster and more efficiently. More importantly, we want members of the public seeking services to be treated with respect, patience, understanding and courtesy.
"The Batho Pele [People First] programme will thus be revitalised this term, accompanied by the promotion of the new Public Service Charter, under the leadership of the Public Service and Administration Department."
In his State of the Nation address on Tuesday, Zuma said the government aimed to ensure "that all levels of this administration treat complaints management as a priority issue, so that we can achieve the goal of being a government that is accessible and responsive to citizens".
He noted that more than 190 000 citizens had logged complaints and queries through the Presidential Hotline that was introduced in 2009, helping the government to understanding how important it was to have a well-functioning and responsive complaint systems.
To added that the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency would continue to conduct unannounced visits to service delivery sites around the country in order to monitor things such as queue management and waiting times, dignified treatment, cleanliness and comfort.
The focus will be on facilities where the public is directly served, such as Home Affairs offices, South African Social Security Agency offices, police stations, hospitals and clinics, drivers' licence centres, municipal customer care centres, schools and courts.
Zuma told Parliament on Friday that while a lot of good work was being done by public servants, some improvements were needed.
"There is a need to enhance skills development in areas such as financial management. Shortcomings become glaring each time the Auditor-General releases his annual report.
"We agree with Honourable Members that part of improving the performance of the state is to get government to pay small businesses and other suppliers promptly within 30 days."
During the previous administration, the National Treasury and the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation put in place a system to monitor the payment of suppliers by national and provincial departments within 30 days.
There will now be more emphasis on assisting departments with large numbers of invoices that are paid late. This will draw on case studies of the best performing departments.