"From rowing the ship to steering it" : reforming the public sector through the tender process : the Msunduzi Municipality as a case study.
It is the following quote by E.S Savas (1992) that truly conceptualises and forms the backdrop of this study "the word government is from a Greek word, which means 'to steer.' The job of government is to steer, not to row the boat. Delivering services is rowing, and government is not good at rowing" (Osborne and Gaebler 1992:25). Government has experienced a reformation of the way it operates, particularly in the way it achieves its policy objectives and delivers services. Governments have discarded the old style of governing and public administration in favour of New Public Management (NPM) and an entrepreneurial spirit. Both NPM and entrepreneurial government are based on the premise that governments must seek the most innovative, efficient and effective way of providing services and must do so under circumstances of fiscal constraints and scarce resources. This has resulted in Alternative Service Delivery (ASD) and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). Local government, being at the heart of service delivery, has entered into Municipal Service Partnerships (MSPs). Public sector procurement has been used as a means of entering into these partnerships and introducing competition, thereby getting the best "value for money". The aim of this research study was to determine how the tender process has contributed to the reformation of the public sector in terms of improving service provision. The study was carried out by employing formal social science research methods. Qualitative methods have been adopted, using the Msunduzi Municipality as a case study. As part of the research methodology of this study, basic interviewing was conducted with officials within the Msunduzi Municipality. The first finding of this study was that government procurement injects competition into the market, thus reducing the cost of services delivered. Secondly, the procurement of goods and services aids government in acquiring much-needed skills, which the public sector often lacks from the private sector. Thirdly, that public procurement in a South African context has a dual purpose. Not only is government procurement aimed at reducing government expenditure, but also at redressing the equalities of the past by empowering "historically disadvantaged individuals". A fourth finding of this study is that Alternative Service Delivery (ASD) and Municipal Service Partnerships (MSPs), which are entered into through the procurement process at local government, are very controversial. While, on the one hand, ASD and MSPs are advocated by some for assisting government in acquiring much-needed financial and technical resources from the private sector which the public sector often lacks, on the other hand the private sector is often criticised by others for being motivated solely by profit-making. Thus, analyses of the findings of this study suggest that government procurement introduces competition into the market, thereby reducing the cost of services delivered, increases service delivery coverage and introduces much-needed skills that are required by the private sector. Public procurement has been employed as an important policy tool which fosters job creation and empowers once discriminated against groups such as women and the disabled. South Africa has reformed itself and has become more entrepreneurial and what was once a solely public function is now being delegated to the private sector. Therefore it can be deduced that ASD and MSPs, through procurement, has transformed the public sector in terms of service delivery and has greatly improved it.