The Black Sash, in partnership with the Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT), today launched a national community monitoring and advocacy project (CMAP) in a bid to improve government service delivery to poor and marginalised communities and individuals. Over the next 18 months, hundreds of community monitors – nominated by over 270 organisations from across South Africa – will maintain a regular and disciplined presence at service delivery points in all nine provinces and record their observations. Through the assistance of the HIV 911 mobile phone rating service, members of the public can also take part by monitoring and reporting on government service delivery in their communities. Both the European Union and the Open Society Foundation of South Africa are supporting the project.
Black Sash Monitoring Project Co-ordinator Gouwah Samuels says CMAP is innovative in many respects but particularly because it gives vulnerable citizens an opportunity to hold government accountable for the services they have promised to deliver. “The project combines the actions of monitoring and advocacy into an unique intervention which we believe will help build a culture of accountability – rights with responsibilities – within communities and government. It is based on the principle that people are not passive users of public services but active holders of fundamental rights,” explains Samuels.
The Black Sash has secured agreements with the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to ensure full access to service delivery points and is in negotiations with the departments of Health and Home Affairs. Trained community monitors will use a set of standardised instruments to assess the quality of services delivered on the day of monitoring, and based on their findings, will engage with government in an effort to improve services.
In a complementary initiative, members of the public can also report on their experience at government offices, paypoints or clinics where there are no monitors, by using the HIV 911's mobile phone rating service. Black Sash Gauteng Provincial Director Thandiwe Zulu says the facility is already available on *120*448# in English, Afrikaans and isiZulu. “All you need to do is call this number and follow the instructions to answer about 5 questions on the quality of service you receive. All the data collected will be included in regular monitoring reports which will be presented to the relevant government departments and officials to affirm good practice and make improvements where necessary,” says Zulu.
SCAT's Director Anthea Davids-Thomas says government is under massive pressure ahead of the local elections to improve access to, as well as the quality and cost effectiveness of, service delivery. “Despite the principles of Batho Pele (People First) which have officially governed the civil service for more than ten years, poor service delivery currently denies millions of people a dignified life and undermines the impact of government spending. We believe that quality service delivery is something we can tackle even at a time of economic recession,” insists Davids-Thomas.
CMAP has already been piloted in four provinces to assess the usefulness of the data gathered as well as to review and amend the monitoring tools and instruments. "Our initial reports have already prompted an improvement in the quality of some aspects of service delivery. For example, beneficiaries are experiencing shorter queue times at SASSA application points in the Western Cape compared to 6 months ago. We appeal to communities and members of the public to get involved in our initiative. We all need to take responsibility for holding our government accountable for delivering - affordably, appropriately, effectively and with dignity - on the promises made in national, provincial and local elections,” says Samuels.
Click here to read more about the Black Sash Community and Advocacy Monitoring Project
For interview requests, please contact:
Black Sash Monitoring Project Co-ordinator
Black Sash Gauteng Provincial Director
Cell: 084-038 2254