Dr Chana Pilane-Majake, the Public Service and Administration Deputy Minister, officially launched the “Assessment on Functionality of Thusong Service Centres (TSCs) to Accessible Service Delivery to Citizens” Report. The launch event, held at the Batho Pele House in Pretoria, was conducted in partnership with Mr Mohlopi Phillemon Mapulane, the Deputy Minister for Communications and Digital Technologies, on Friday, May 24, 2024.

Thusong Service Centres (TSCs) were established in 1999 to provide interdisciplinary one-stop government services and information stations closer to communities. The intention was to avail Accessible Service Delivery to Citizens.

“The unannounced visits to service delivery sites such as Thusong Service Centres have opened our eyes to what needs to be done going forward,” Deputy Minister Dr Pilane-Majake said in her scene-setting remarks.

As the corporate service arm of the Public Service, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) plays a crucial role in ensuring that the “machinery of government is well-oiled”, said Deputy Minister Dr Pilane-Majake on why the assessment on TSCs was undertaken.

In her report presentation, the Chief Director responsible for service delivery access and frontline services at the DPSA, Ms Veronica Motalane, said the assessment involved a random selection of TSCs across South Africa’s nine provinces, and a total of 59 out of 121 centres, focusing on the following standardised instruments:

  • A standardised site assessment tool checklist
  • Unannounced site visits
  • Face-Face interviews
  • Walk-about and Observations
  • Interviews with Centre Management/Officials found on site

Ms Motalane explained that assessment tools were developed based on TSC details, governance structures, services, location, accessibility, signage, queue management, cleanliness, comfort, safety, service charter, standards, and productivity.

“Overall, the assessment sought to ascertain whether the Thusong Service Centres were having an impact in line with their policy intent and service delivery benefits,” said Ms Motalane.

While there were those TSCs that are worth emulating, such as the Maponya Thusong Service Centre in Soweto, Gauteng, most are barely surviving due to several factors, including their location within the government, funding models and connectivity issues. Of great concern, said Ms Motalane, is the decline in the number of TSCs, from 176 in 2016 to the current 121.

The report suggests several recommendations for enhancing the TSCs programme, including finalising the Framework for Service Centres as per the Public Administration and Administration Act (2014). Moreover, it recommends that the Minister for the Public Service and Administration (MPSA) should establish regulations for establishing, maintaining, managing, and operating Service Centres, including TSCs.

“I can say that we have done well when we look at where we started in 1999. However, the intention is to have more Thusong Service Centres, which will create access to service by many more people,” said Dr Pilane-Majake, proposing that the idea of a “virtual Thusong Service Centre” needed to be explored in this regard.

Emphasising the importance of innovation and technology in expanding service delivery, Dr Pilane-Majake said a virtual TSC would provide even greater accessibility to government services for those unable to visit a centre physically.

The Deputy Minister for Communications and Digital Technologies, Mr Mohlopi Phillemon Mapulane, whose department is one of the key government stakeholders in running TSCs, provided an overview of the DCDT’s work and said the report’s recommendations lay a foundation for the 7th Administration to take the Thusong Service Centre programme forward. The Assessment Report on the Functionality of Thusong Service Centres Calls for Urgent Revamp of the Thusong Centres.

According to the findings, the government needs to conduct a detailed nationwide assessment of the current state of Thusong Service Centres. This will help identify critical gaps in infrastructure, ICT connectivity, service offerings, staffing, and overall functionality of the centres.

The report emphasises strengthening partnerships and coordination between national, provincial, and local government departments. This will be crucial in enhancing the service offerings at Thusong Centres and addressing the existing gaps.

Another key recommendation is to establish appropriate standards, norms, and guidelines for the Thusong Service Centres. This will help ensure uniformity and quality of service delivery across the country.

To ensure the long-term sustainability and expansion of the programme, the report suggests exploring alternative service delivery models and funding mechanisms, including public-private partnerships. Investing in upgrading the ICT infrastructure and connectivity at the Thusong Service Centres is also highlighted as a crucial step to enable efficient and reliable access to digital government services.

The report calls for strengthening the capacity and skills of Thusong Service Centre staff to improve the quality of service delivery and responsiveness to citizens.