State capacity in the provision of services in Sedibeng district municipality

Marule, Innocentia Ntomboxolo
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This thesis was designed to examine the South African state’s capacity in the provision of basic services. State capacity is defined as the ability of the political system to enforce rules and deliver services. This reinforcement of control by the state over persons and resources within governments is critical for the performance of a political system. State capacity is therefore vital in ensuring that the provision of basic services is satisfactory and sustainable so as to optimise client satisfaction. Sedibeng is a District Municipality in one of the nine South African provinces called Gauteng Province. In spite of its rich and enduring political history and heavy industry, the situation in Sedibeng is partly attributable to the lack of adequate skills capacity with which to drive service delivery in the area. Within this context, this investigation sought to explore the role of state capacity in the provision of basic services to citizens at local government level by focusing on three local municipalities: Emfuleni, Midvaal and Lesedi. The research was underpinned by four inter-related and mutually reinforcing concepts positioned within the context of local government, namely skills capacity-building, leadership and governance, performance management and service delivery. This conceptual framework was based on the assumption that skills capacity-building is a catalyst or enabler in enhancing leadership, governance and the overall performance of organisations. A qualitative research approach through interviews, focus groups and document analysis was adopted. The researcher also used a case study design and its advantage is that, apart from it enabling understanding of the contextual issues impacting skills capacity-building, it also provided an ideal opportunity for the researcher to tap into the vast municipal experiences of Emfuleni, Midvaal and Lesedi. Of importance was the contribution of executive managers, senior managers and ward councillors regarding the state of skills capacity, the process followed to implement skills capacity and to learn whether skills capacity efforts have been used to improve employee performance in the provision of service. From the cross-case analysis involving the three municipalities, it emerged that despite the common difficulties encountered in organisational culture, resource for capacity-building initiatives, recruitment, selection and retention strategies and aligning skills capacity with the municipal strategic direction, the skills capacity-building initiatives were being implemented with some degree of success. The findings of the study concluded that although there had been significant progress in the implementation of skills capacity-building programmes in Emfuleni, Midvaal and Lesedi, it is not clear whether these training initiatives were producing the desired outputs across Sedibeng’s three municipalities as a step to provide and improve service delivery, as the scope, intensity and sustainability of these efforts varied markedly across the three local municipalities. The investigation also revealed that there was no evidence of monitoring and evaluation with intense feedback and review of the progress made through skills capacity-building. Further findings were the loss of skilled and highly experienced employees and managers, which undermined the organisational memory which is critical for strategic planning and effective service delivery in any institution. Even though the researcher had assumed that skills capacity-building was the most important ingredient in service delivery, the findings of the study revealed that training is not the only important variable needed to improve service delivery in local municipalities. Other crucial variables include the alignment of training with performance management, career management, reward systems, skills transfer, employee welfare and retention strategy for the protection and preservation of organisational memory. The study concludes that learning provides the intellectual basis which stimulates the impetus for effective and sustainable organisational memory, which in turn plays a key role in facilitating strategic planning, skills formation, staff motivation and retention to improve service delivery. This learning emphasises the important consideration to locate the problematic of organisational memory towards possible improvement of service delivery where skills capacity and other related factors play a major role. The contribution of this thesis to the body of knowledge is underpinned by the interface between learning and organisational memory as surfacing beyond skills capacity and as a necessity to enhance service delivery in municipalities.
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, University of the Witwatersrand, in fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy 31 March 2014