Public administration and service delivery reforms: a post-1994 South African case
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This paper is an analysis of South Africa's public service improvement strategies since 1994. It first describes the historical factors that underpinned South Africa's service delivery initiatives before 1994. It is argued that the pre-1994 public service sector was racialised and highly politicised, as opposed to being people-centred and service delivery oriented. The transition to democracy in 1994 necessitated a complete revision of South Africa's public administrative system in order to meet the developmental challenges of service delivery needs. However, this transition also coincided with global reform initiatives that were taking place in the public
sector, as informed by the new public management (NPM) paradigm with its emphasis on cost effectiveness, accountability and transparency. The primary argument of the paper is that commendable legislative reforms have been enacted in South Africa's public administration system in the post-1994 period, based on the NPM, but the fragility of the state bureaucracy as manifested in the silo approach characterising the South African government operations, as well as capacity limitations, encumbers the success of these reforms. The Community Development Worker (CDW) programme, operating in South Africa's Eastern and Western Cape Provinces, is used as a case study to illustrate this argument. A brief look at India's experience of the NPM also informs the discussion. The significance of the case study lies in the fact that it was conceived in the interest of increased responsiveness and accessibility to government services, a vital pillar of the NPM framework.