Service plans as accountability mechanisms: evidence from the South African Public Service
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This article documents and assesses the process of formulating and submitting Service Delivery Improvement Plans (SDIPs) over the 2006/7 financial year. Given the emphasis on citizen orientation and accountability of the Batho Pele framework, the article examines the effectiveness and utility of the SDIPs submitted to the Department of Public Service and Administration by national and provincial departments. The process points to improvements in both the compliance rate and the quality of the submissions as they show a heightened consciousness of the Batho Pele framework. However, there are also limitations in that the SDIPs focus primarily on internal customers, without reaching out to citizens, the nearest point of delivery, they also lack measurable standards, and contain limited or no specification of how targeted improvements will be attained. These limitations reduce many of the SDIPs to a statement of objectives, rather than coherent improvement plans, with no cognisance of issues of administrative justice and access to information. The article emphasise the need for the centre to play a monitoring role and to support implementation, if the process is to be sustainable, given the absence of the requisite capacity to formulate standards within Departments.