Emerald Fulltext Archive Database 1994-2005
The new South Africa came into being in 1994. The new government inherited the national public service and those of a variety of former provinces and homelands that had to be amalgamated to form a national unified public service. Although this task was accomplished rapidly, the resulting public service was very large, and exhibited many features of traditional bureaucracy, including hierarchical structures, limited automation and IT applications, low levels of training, a poor work culture, language and cultural barriers, and an overall orientation towards inputs and processes rather than service delivery and results. Within the first three years of the new order, substantial effort was devoted to reforming the bureaucracy. New public service legislation and regulations were introduced, new and powerful central personnel agencies were created, English became the language of administration, and substantial authority was devolved to departments and provinces. Despite these reforms, progress in improving results in terms of service delivery, especially to previously disadvantaged communities, was mixed. Towards the end of the 1990s increased attention was paid to means of improving service delivery. Three important initiatives in this regard were Batho Pele (1997), the adoption of eight nationwide principles for better service delivery; a public private partnerships initiative (2000) and the promotion of alternative service delivery. While alternative service delivery initiatives are largely at pilot stage, they offer a promising alternative both to traditional bureaucracy (with its cost and poor service delivery focus) and to a narrow version of privatisation (which could involve heavy social costs, job losses, and regressive redistribution of wealth). This paper reviews these developments and outlines some promising alternative service delivery pilot projects.
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