The Public Service Commission (PSC) releases a report on the assessment of the effectiveness of Thusong Service Centres in integrated service delivery
18 Nov 2010
The Public Service Commission (PSC) has always acknowledged the importance of Thusong Service Centres (TSCs), previously called Multi Purpose Community Centres (MPCCs), in improving service delivery and increasing access to services for the poor and previously disadvantaged. It is that appreciation that led to the PSC conducting an assessment of the effectiveness of TSCs in integrated service delivery during the 2009/10 financial year.
Having been established in 1999, the primary objective of the TSCs was to serve as one-stop service centres where communities would gain better access to services provided by government, non-governmental organisations, parastatals and business. Since the PSC’s first study of the impact of TSCs during the 2001/02 financial year, the 2009/10 assessment was necessary in order to provide feedback on the effectiveness of TSCs in operationalsing the development efforts to bring government closer to the people, and to address information and service imbalances at local level.
Below are some of the significant issues emanating from the 2009/10 assessment:
b. Key findings of the study
- The report notes that the Thusong Centres Programme has succeeded in bringing services closer communities. This is evidenced by the fact that eighty four percent (84%) of service users interviewed reside in the immediate vicinity of TSCs and the majority of these service users (60%) had to travel less than five kilometres to a TSC in their respective areas.
- The Report however notes that not all departments render services on a daily basis at TSCs. In some instances, services are only provided once a week or even fortnightly. In instances where departments would not be able to provide services on a regular basis due to amongst others lack of funding, such departments share infrastructure such as mobile units with departments that have adequate resources to increase and ensure accessibility to the much needed services.
- The PSC found that departments used various approaches to ensure active public participation and consultation at the TSCs, such as direct information sessions, meetings, national and provincially based awareness programmes or izimbizo.
With regards to the management arrangements in the TSCs, the report found that:
- Responsibility for the management of the TSCs Programme has not been spelt out in legislation or policy documents. It is therefore, not clear to which sphere of government or institution the function and coordination of the TSCs Programme are allocated.
- Management of the TSCs Programme is currently diverse due to a lack of necessary frameworks which would bring uniformity in the coordination and management of the TSCs.
- The PSC found that different Thusong Service Managers report to different institutions and as a result, no uniform norms and standards are applied in the management and operations at the TSCs. Likewise, roles and responsibilities of TSC Managers are not clarified and the importance of their roles in the TSCs is not reflected in the level of their posts.
In determining whether departments were effective in promoting integrated service delivery at TSCs, the findings show that:
- Although departments operate in a common space in the TSCs, they still work in silos, without sharing resources or ensuring that they plan and budget together.
- The report also notes that every department maintains its own database, even where the necessary infrastructure is available to link systems, and the departments justify the practice of keeping separate databases by indicating that they each have their own security requirements, and that the information cannot be shared with other departments.
The PSC also identified the following constraints in the implementation of the TSCs Programme:
- Frontline services of the different departments represented at the TSCs do not always receive the necessary support from their respective parent departments.
- In 80% of the TSCs visited, there was too little office space available to accommodate all the service providers involved in the TSCs.
- A lack of financial resources is hampering the management of the TSCs and the maintenance of the infrastructure of these Centres.
- Departmental representatives at all the TSCs involved in the study received functional service delivery and Batho Pele awareness training. However, none of the departments train officials on integrated service delivery or provide TSC specific training through on-the-job or induction training.
- A lack of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) connectivity is a major impediment to service delivery at the TSCs. A number of TSCs are established in rural areas and while their establishment ensures easier access to remote communities, the problem with IT connectivity remains high.
- A lack of proper security arrangements at the TSCs, especially when South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) pays out large amounts of money on pension days is a concern.
The PSC recommends the following to facilitate the achievement of the TSCs Programme`s objectives of providing quality service in a cost-effective and integrated manner.
- Strengthening efforts to improve accessibility: The TSCs has overall been successful in bringing government information and services closer to local communities. However, mobile infrastructure should be utilised to further strengthen current efforts to establish more TSCs and improve accessibility to government information and services. Furthermore, visiting points and operating times of mobile units should be agreed with members of the relevant communities and the initiative should be effectively marketed to ensure maximum use of the TSCs services.
- Improving the overall management of the Thusong Service Centres: The overall function of coordinating the TSCs Programme should be allocated to one national department where it will be reflected in the main functions and budget of department. This is the department that would ensure that the necessary frameworks and legislative requirements that would ensure that uniform coordination as well as common norms and standards in all TSCs are in place. Similarly, the current measures to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the TSCs Programme should be strengthened to ensure that the overall performance of TSCs in properly monitored and evaluated.
- Integrated service delivery should be promoted: Apart from providing service users with information about services provided at the TSCs and directing them to the correct location of a service provider at the Centre, the General Services Counters (GSCs) should become centres of integrated service delivery. The GSCs could also be useful in assisting service users with filling of application forms and providing information about other government services not provided at the TSCs. The different departmental computer systems in the TSCs should also be linked to ensure that all relevant information of members of the community (service users) is available to all the service providers at a specific TSC.
- Security measures at the TSCs should be strengthened: Adequate security measures at the TSCs should form part of the Risk Management Strategy of Thusong Service Centres Programme. Security measures at the TSCs should be strengthened by approaching the Department of Police to do a physical security evaluation. This evaluation involves an annual follow up audit to establish compliance with prescripts and progress with the implementation of recommendations of the initial evaluation report.
Overall, the assessment of the Thusong Service Centres programme has shown that the Programme has made a significant contribution to accelerating service delivery and increasing access to service, especially for the rural communities. Several departments that provide services at the TSCs seem to be exploring alternative ways of extending their services to reach the previously disadvantaged and remote communities. However, there have been challenges in coordinating the programme and ensuring that services at the TSCs are rendered in an integrated manner. A concern in this regard is that there is no single department that ensures standardisation and uniformity of operations at the TSCs and provides operational framework in this regard.
For enquiries, please contact:
Mr Humphrey Ramafoko
Director: Communication and Information Services
Tel: 012 352 1196
Cell: 082 782 1730
Mr Ricardo Mahlakanya
Tel: 012 352 1070
Cell: 079 769 7955
Source: Public Service Commission
Issued by: Public Service Commission
18 Nov 2010
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