This longitudinal study is an extension of a Master’s dissertation entitled “The state of skills readiness in the South African Public Service: an overview of the Department of Provincial and Local government” Sheoraj, R (2008).
The earlier research project examined the capacity of the state to deliver on its promise for improved service delivery and a better life for all citizens. The National Skills Development Strategy, 2010 (NSDS) was evaluated to determine its effectiveness in tackling the serious challenge of skills in South Africa.
This study examines the state of skills at local government, the underlying causes of capacity constraints and their implications for service delivery in the context of a developmental state.
The argument is that local government is in the process of transformation. One of the critical constitutional features of local government in South Africa after 1994 is its developmental orientation. Local government requires appropriate skills to deliver on its mandate.
Chapter 1 provides an overview of South Africa’s transition to democracy. It provides an overview of the transformation and recruitment practices of the Public Service and the skills policy interventions. Lastly, a brief overview of the framework of the study is provided.
Chapter 2 describes the methodology of the research that is followed for gathering and analysing information for the purpose of this study.
Chapter 3 explores the literature associated with the development of the practice and theory of public administration. The skills challenges that the current administration faces is also examined in this chapter. The significance of public administration theories in South Africa’s modern Public Service is also expanded upon.
Chapter 4 provides a background to the case study and profile of local government. It explores the role and characteristics of a developmental local government.
Chapter 5 analyses the state of skills in municipalities with reference to a case setting of the uMgeni municipality in KwaZulu-Natal and the implications for good governance and service delivery.
Chapter 6 encapsulates the dialogue generated in previous chapters. It will discuss research findings and propose recommendations to the challenges identified. It provides suggested responses, demonstrates examples of good practices adopted to address the complex issues relating to skills shortages and proposes a number of strategic approaches to address the issue of skills shortage.
This study found that municipalities are mandated by various acts to become more developmental. In assisting them with the increased pressure to effectively deliver basic services and clear the current service backlogs, the Local government Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998 mandates the implementation of Integrated Development Plans (lDP) as the main planning instrument for a municipal area.
It was also found that along with the implementation of lDPs, the Municipal Structures Act mandates the implementation of performance management systems within the structures of the municipality. Currently, not a week passes without a news headline announcing that in one of the municipal areas of South Africa social unrest is high because of the lack of service delivery from the relevant municipality.
The purpose of this study was not to find solutions for the lack of service delivery, but to critically evaluate the state of skills in local government and the implications for service delivery. The central aim of the study is, therefore to establish “What is the state of skills at local government in South Africa and to what extent can government intervention impact on skills development and service delivery to restore confidence in this sphere of government?”
Even if the study does not aim to provide answers to the reasons related to poor service delivery the assessment provides insight into the formulation of policy processes. This study recommends that a vibrant interventionist policy approach by local governments will be the right step to address the issues of a developmental state and those of skills acquisition.