Prof. Richard Levin

The pattern of operating in silos and challenges that led to a lack of coherence in planning and implementation has also made monitoring and oversight of government’s programs difficult. The consequence has been non-optimal delivery of services and diminished impact on the triple challenges of poverty, inequality, and unemployment.

The President has called for the rolling out of “a new integrated district-based approach model to address service delivery challenges and localized procurement and job creation, that promotes and supports local businesses, and that involves communities.”

Such an approach will require that National Departments that have district-level delivery capacity together with the provinces, provide implementation plans in line with government priorities.

At the launch of the 2019 Public Service Month in Polokwane, Limpopo Province, Public Service and Administration Minister, Mr Senzo Mchunu, emphasized the importance of integrated implementation.

He gave an example of an incident in the Eastern Cape province, under Mhlontlo Municipality, where the government launched a R12, 45 billion project for the Mzimvubu water project in 2014.  The project would see the construction of two massive Ntabelanga and Laleni dams.  It later transpired that there is no budget allocated for the project, after so much fanfare and raising hopes.

Another such example Minister Mchunu gave was in Giyani, where angry members of the community, demanded the construction of a road after a bridge was built, with no connecting road.

What comes out clearly in both matters is the fact that public servants must now sharpen their approach when it comes to issues of service delivery.

The proposed New District Level model seeks to utilise the existing legal framework and implementation machinery, which includes the Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) Framework Act which provides for the Minister and department responsible for cooperative governance to provide a framework for coordinating and aligning development priorities and objectives between the three spheres of government as well as the development of indicators for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the Framework.

The Model utilizes and enhances these frameworks as well as the existing implementation machinery to facilitate joint planning, implementation as well as monitoring and evaluation, between and amongst all spheres of governance. The term District is seen to refer to locality rather than the District Municipality, which no doubt forms an important part of the planning, delivery as well as Monitoring and Evaluation architecture.

By crowding in public, private and not-for-profit investments to a district locality, in an all-inclusive manner as directed by joint district implementation plans, the model aims at maximizing impact whilst capitalizing on a window of opportunity over the next 12 to 18 months.  The aim is to address the ‘burning’ and ‘stabilisation’ challenges faced by local municipalities, these are seen as critical building blocks towards the realization of the objectives of the model and the realization of the aspirations of citizens.

By laying a solid foundation in the short term, a long term spatially relevant plan for South Africa will be secured through the sum total of the District Implementation Plans into Joined-Up Plans or the One Plan which aligns and mutually reinforces the District Plans.

In so doing, the One Plan will focus on the District/Metropolitan spaces as the appropriate scale and arena for intergovernmental planning and coordination. It will also focus on the 44 Districts plus 8 Metros as developmental spaces (IGR Impact Zones) that will be strategic alignment platforms for all three spheres of government.

The One Plan will produce a Spatially Integrated Single Government Plan as an Intergovernmental Compact for each of these spaces that guides and directs all strategic investment spending and project delivery across government, and forms the basis for accountability.

It will also reinforce an outcomes-based IGR system where there is a systematic IGR program and process associated with the formulation and implementation of a single government plan.

It will also take development to communities as key beneficiaries and actors of what government does.

These Single Joined-Up plans or the One Plan will take the form of prioritized spatial expressions over the long term and will be divided into five and 10-year implementation plans supported by annual operation plans which will be based on commonly agreed diagnostics, strategies, and actions.

Each sphere and sector department will have to elaborate in more detail their own plans and actions. The plans will facilitate the management of urbanization, growth, and development, determining and/or supporting local economic drivers and determining and managing spatially relevant, land release and land development.

The sector departments will determine infrastructure investment requirements and ensure long-term infrastructure adequacy to support integrated human settlements, economic activity and provision of basic services, community, and social services.

They will also institutionalize long-term planning whilst addressing ‘burning’ short term issues.

The content of the Plans will elaborate on the key transformation processes required to achieve long-term strategic goals and the desired future in each of the 44 districts and 8 metro spaces.

To deliver on this and lay the solid foundation for future delivery of the model a short term implementation plan is proposed which includes, in its development phase, the finalisation of spatially referenced budgets and programmes by all spheres of government in the specific Districts and Metros to the lowest common denominator, at best the ward and worst the local municipality.

This is seen as a critical step towards informing the One Plan and the proposed special and extended Presidential Coordinating Council (PCC) which is proposed to include the District Mayors in November 2019.

In the parallel stabilization phase, the short term implementation plan will include fixing the challenges on governance, financial management, infrastructure delivery and maintenance, and community engagements.

The proposal includes the long term spatially relevant and referenced plan by which government can direct developments in South Africa, whilst linking into regional integration initiatives and global markets to secure decent work, food security and a better life for all.

To deliver this, the President is championing the initiative supported by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs as well as a relevant Inter-Ministerial Committee.

This will be complemented by a similar structure at the provincial level and both will exercise oversight over the proposed and multi-stakeholder District Hubs which will have the District and Local Municipalities as well as the private and community sectors as critical participants.

Each Hub will require a multi-disciplinary team including planners, infrastructure specialists, economists, social facilitators under the leadership of a District Hub Manager, all of whom will be appointed by the Department of Cooperative Governance.

No additional resources are required, in the short term 12 to 18 months to implement the development phase of the Model which will result in harmonized plans and stabilized municipalities.

Instead the Department of Cooperative Governance will seek concurrence from the National Treasury to reprioritise existing budgets whilst also supplementing the budget and resources through partnerships with the private sector, and the broad development partners as may be advised by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation as well as the Department of Trade and Industry and other departments.