An exploration of the implementation of the individual performance management system within local government : a case study of uMngeni municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Mkhize, Nonhlanhla S'thabile.
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The transition to a democratic state brought many challenges for managing public finances in South Africa. One of the challenges was the critical political commitment by the new government to improve coverage and quality of public service delivery to the majority of the population. This was done in order to redress the racially based distortions of the past (Folscher & Cole, 2006:2). The Constitution of the Republic of South African (Act 108 of 1996), section 152 (1)(b), mandates local government to ensure provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner. Through various legislation, Acts and Regulations, the South African local government began implementing performance management systems, as mandated by the national government. According to Williams (2006:24), performance management is defined by the National Department of Provincial and Local Government as, “a strategic approach to management, which equips leaders, managers, workers, and stakeholders at different levels with a set of tools and techniques to regularly plan, consciously monitor, periodically measure and review performance of the organisation in terms of indicators and targets for efficiency, effectiveness and impact”. Performance management is an approach of the new public management (NPM). NPM is said to be the use of private management ideas such as the provision of more responsive and efficient services, performance agreements, including service standards, greater autonomy and flexibility for managers and new financial techniques (Cameron, 2009:3). Performance management was thus introduced to the public sector as a way of cutting through the red tape and the rigidity associated with old-style public administration. It was seen as a way of improving efficiency and service delivery. This qualitative study was not aimed at exploring service delivery achievements, failures or citizens’ opinions on service delivery, but, rather, to reveal senior managers’ conceptions of IPMS as well as their experiences in implementing IPMS and/or challenges. This study therefore focused on conceptions and experiences of the senior managers in implementing the Individual Performance Management System (IPMS) of uMngeni Municipality, as part of the national government-wide monitoring and evaluation (GWME) system. Non-probability, purposive sampling was used to collect primary data through in-depth interviews conducted with the senior managers of uMngeni Municipality (municipal manager and three general managers of departments) and a representative from the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Performance Management Unit. Secondary data was used and this included government legislation and policies and uMngeni municipality’s annual reports. Content analysis was used to analyse the primary and secondary data. The analysis was based on the theoretical framework on public policy implementation, monitoring and evaluation, new public management and individual performance management. The research findings were categorised into the following themes: conceptualisation of the performance management system within uMngeni Municipality, the roles and responsibilities for implementation of the performance management system, mechanisms and support structures for implementation of performance management system in uMngeni Municipality and challenges encountered in implementing the performance management system within uMngeni Municipality.