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Voice of citizens strengthened

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
It is what every citizen hopes for – a government that listens to their needs and then delivers services that address those needs.

Through citizen-based monitoring government will be able to strengthen public accountability and improve service delivery.After all, we all want to have a say in that which impacts us directly in our day-to-day lives.

Government is a step closer to the vision of building a capable state, with the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation’s (DPME) piloting of the Citizensbssased Monitoring (CBM) approach.

CBM monitors government’s performance, focusing on the experience of ordinary citizens to strengthen public accountability and improve service delivery.

CBM closes the gap between the perceived and actual experiences of service delivery for both the user (citizen) and the provider (government).

How CBM works

Jonathan Timm, the Director of CBM at DPME, says the programme utilises feedback from citizens to improve the services that are delivered.

“If you really want to understand whether you are delivering the right services or whether government is doing what it has planned to do, you need different sources of data.

“CBM, in the context of water, could be finding out whether the community is able to get water from a tap. Getting feedback from people who are affected by the service is a very important part of the monitoring cycle or system.”

Timm says that civil servants are also consulted to determine what the challenges are in delivering services.

“At times you find that the problem is not with the civil servant administering the service on the ground, but that the challenge needs to be solved higher up in the system.”

CBM is a four-step process. The first step is meetings, facilitated by the DPME, within a specific community where citizens, civil society and government officials discuss the challenges faced by that community.

Secondly, CBM teams from the community, which have been trained by the DPME, conduct community surveys on locals’ experiences when they receive government services.

Short questionnaires are used to determine from citizens what they think about the participating government departments.

The surveys are also used to gather the views of staff members providing the services, to get their opinion on the conditions that they work under.

“By listening to the community and staff, the CBM model is able to identify where the challenges lie. People who use the service are asked to share their views about the quality of the service, waiting times, bribery and the way people are treated by officials,” explains Timm.

The information is used to develop a plan to improve services.

The third step includes community members, staff, civil society and service delivery facility managers coming together to determine the way forward.

Timm adds that once a plan to improve services has been discussed and agreed on, a public commitment to the improvements is made at a community meeting, bringing together government officials, local councillors, traditional leaders and community members.

The last phase of the programme ensures plans are in place for improvements, including ways for community members to monitor progress towards achieving agreed upon targets.

The piloting of CBM

The first phase of the CBM pilot has already been completed in Msinga, KwaZulu-Natal and Phuthaditjhaba in the Free State.

Timm says that a number of lessons were learnt in these two areas.

“In Msinga, for example, there was lack of communication between the local traditional leaders and the police. One of the key actions was to build healthy relationships with the community through dialogue and participation in strengthening the community policing forum.

“In Phuthaditjhaba, the community raised concerns about the lack of police visibility in the area. This resulted in the police station installing tracking devices in all police vehicles to monitor where patrols were taking place, which increased visibility.”

CBM is currently being piloted in Temba in Gauteng, Burgersfort in Limpopo and Jouberton in North West.

By 2015, CBM would have been piloted in all nine provinces and DPME will work with sector departments to take CBM to a bigger scale.

A five-year strategy will then be developed and policy recommendations will be submitted to Cabinet. CBM roll-out across the country will then be determined.

For more information, call the Batho Pele call centre: 0860 428 392