The National Development Plan (NDP) is a detailed blueprint of how the government wants to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality in South Africa by the year 2030, but its implementation has been lagging.
“The NPD can only be implemented successfully if there's a better alignment between departmental plans and budgets and government policies," says Dr Nelia Orlandi who recently obtained her doctorate in Public and Development Management at Stellenbosch University.
As part of her study, Orlandi identified possible impediments to the successful implementation of the NDP and made recommendations that can help facilitate the process. She also proposed a model to evaluate the success or failure of the implementation processes of government policies including the NDP.
According to Orlandi, implementation challenges include problems with the coordination of the planning, budgeting and organisational processes within government departments; budget estimates not expressing policy prioritisation; and performance indicators that don't provide an effective basis for measurement and management.
“My analysis of relevant planning documents and performance data showed that the challenge for successful policy implementation is the relationship of the NDP requirements with planning, budgeting and reporting in government's performance management system.
“When looking at the 2014–2019 Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), the first of three five-year implementation plans for the NDP, I found that not all planning concepts are in line with the planning concepts of the standard accountability, planning and budgeting documents of government. These differences create confusion amongst managers who are responsible for the development of performance and operational plans, budgets and outputs."
Orlandi adds that the MTSF national outcomes are also not linked to budget programmes, which suggests that outputs cannot be reconciled with a budget allocation. “Only 36 per cent of MTSF performance indicators were integrated (by the time of the study) into the Annual Performance Plans of various government departments.
“The performance indicators are not appropriate for measuring performance on the whole of government's contributions to the implementation of the NDP. In certain instances, it's impossible to make a credible performance evaluation.
“The omission of end-year reporting and auditing in the system introduced for reporting on the NDP compromises accountability and leads to the misuse of funds."
Orlandi says all is, however, not lost and by following a few recommendations she made in her study, the government could improve its ability to implement the NDP successfully.
“It's important that the 2019–2024 MTSF should focus on the development of strategic outcome-oriented goals linked to the priority national outcomes of the NDP."
Orlandi suggests the development of well-described performance indicators and targets as well as better integration of the NDP into the existing activities of departments in all spheres of government.
“All budget programme structures should be reviewed and classified correctly to provide for the relevant resources and capacity as well as to accommodate NDP outcomes and activities to which funds must be directed.
“This incorporation is important to link budgets with the NDP, which also provides a legal structure for expenditure on the activities required to implement the NDP. The incorporation of NDP activities within the standard government processes will also ensure proper year-end reporting and auditing."
The government should also strengthen the results-based management system for monitoring and reporting on results, says Orlandi.
“This system requires the development and provision of integrated financial and non-financial information in the form of in-year monitoring of financial reports and quarterly performance reports, which culminates in year-end reports that are subject to evaluation and audits. The mandated audit process of all government activities will ensure accountability for the NDP commitments."
Orlandi recommends that a new operating mechanism should also be introduced to address the challenges of design and content, inefficiencies and accountability experienced with the 2014–2019 MTSF and government's Programme of Action. She says such a mechanism could also support the allocation of priority-based resources through the development of performance indicators in terms of the NDP for different sectors.
According to Orlandi, the successful implementation of the NDP requires focused leadership, institutional reform, the mobilisation of resources, trade-offs, a willingness to prioritise and the need for careful sequencing for implementation.
“The NDP, if implemented as intended, can indeed address South Africa's socio-economic and macro-economic challenges."
FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES ONLY
Dr Nelia Orlandi
Corporate Communication and Marketing