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Multi-purpose Community Centres /One-stop shops as Vehicles of a Shared Service Delivery Approach

A workshop in support of the Service Delivery Innovation (SDI) Learning Network hosted by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) and Simeka at the Farm Inn in Pretoria, on 12 July 2001

1.1. Introduction

In response to the 2001 State of the Nation address, the Minister for Public Service and Administration emphasised two themes, namely improved service delivery and transformational challenges for the public service.

The two themes clearly meant that both the standard and high quality of service delivery could be achieved through a responsive, transforming public service. This implies a need for transformation of processes, systems and channels of service delivery, in order to cope with the challenges that are facing society in general. One such channel has been expressed through a dynamic and exciting government initiative: One-Stop Shop /Multi-purpose Community Centre (OSS/MPCC).

These MPCCs are the necessary platforms through which services could be rendered in a co-ordinated manner. This clearly necessitates intergovernmental partnership among national, provincial and local spheres of government to share available resources and to avoid duplication. On a broader scale, government cannot meet the needs for all these services unless it forges partnerships with the private sectors, NGO’s, CBO’s and the many sectoral structures that exist.

1.2. Background

In order to fast track Service Delivery Improvement programmes, DPSA embarked on providing support to service delivery institutions. This resulted in the forging of a partnership with the GCIS, which is tasked under Cabinet Memorandum 15 of November 1999, with the co-ordination of the government MPCC initiative . As a result thereof, a task team representing the two departments was formed in April 2000.

During interactions, the task team discovered that most departments were not aware of, or not yet not fully involved in, the MPCC initiative. It therefore became apparent that there is a dire need for an awareness campaign which would inform departments about the nature of services, the role the MPCCs play, and the impact they have made to date.

It was for this reason that the team decided to co-host an SDI learning network workshop on MPCC/OSS, with the aim of:

  • raising awareness and encouraging stakeholders to take ownership of the integrated service delivery approach;
  • promoting awareness about service delivery innovation which could play a supportive role in the enhancement of cost effectiveness of service delivery institutions
  • sharing lessons learnt by those stakeholders using MPCCs / One-Stop Shop as a vehicle of comprehensive and seamless service delivery to communities.

The workshop was meant to yield the following outcomes:

  • The recognition that a Service Delivery Innovation network is an important platform for building strategic partnership that would allow departments and other stakeholders to share resources
  • Those departments wishing to pursue a shared service approach would know what it is all about and who to contact for more information
  • Informed inputs to improve the guidelines on shared service delivery would be received, and could assist DPSA to note issues that need policy interventions on matters that affect the information-sharing phenomenon
  • It would create a platform for sharing lessons and possible exploration of strategic collaboration in the partnerships
  • It would be an awakening call to those departments who have pledged their support and have not started the process
  • Sharing lessons would expose areas that lack training especially in the field of customer care and management of MPCCs
  • It will be a move towards best practices on shared service delivery.

1.3. Preparations towards the Learning Network Workshop

1.3.1. Invitations

It was agreed that 100 people would make up the audience and will be drawn from National Departments, Provinces, NGOs and Private Sector. Preference was to be given to those institutions that participate in MPCCs already. This would enable them to share lessons and take stock of the impact they have made in participating in the initiative. The criterion for choosing the invitees was therefore influenced by the manner in which Departments/Institutions support the running of MPCC’s/OSS.

The following reflects consensus on who was to be invited:

  • Representatives from each of the 9 Provincial Intersectoral Steering Committees (PISSCs - 18)
  • Centre managers from all the 11 established centres (11)
  • Two departments providing Services in MPCCs from each of the established centres (22)
  • Ten members of the National Intersectoral Steering Committee (NISSC - 10)
  • Two members from SALGA (2)
  • One member from each of the Provincial Local Government Associations (9)
  • Eight from interested departments who are currently not participating but would like to get first hand information about the initiative
  • Twenty staff members from GCIS and DPSA (SDI).

1.3.2. Finance and logistical arrangements

The workshop, cost R 29 200.00 and an agreement was reached that each member department would be expected to contribute financially to the running cost of this workshop. GCIS committed an amount of R 10 000.00 as did the DPSA. Given the interest shown by Simeka during the launch of the SDI learning network in September 2000, DPSA approached the company to contribute towards the difference, which they did.

2. The Workshop structure

The workshop was structured as indicated in the programme, which was divided into four parts:

  1. The general overview of the approach as a service delivery option. The first presentation was made by DPSA, followed by GCIS. The keynote address was by the Northern Cape on One-Stop shop Centres;
  2. Sharing of practical experiences was presented by representatives from both the Provincial and the Local Intersectoral Steering Committees, as well as the representative from the Department of Home Affairs;
  3. Four breakaway groups were formed to further interrogate the challenges experienced in the service centre operations. Each group nominated a facilitator within the group to report back during plenary session.
  4. Way forward for a learning network reflecting the successes, challenges and recommendations identified during deliberations.

2.1. Summary of presentations

The deliberations of the day centred on an overview presented by the DPSA & GCIS, sharing of lessons learnt, case studies and breakaway discussion session. Case studies from Rethusaneng (Northern Cape), Botshabelo (Free State), and Unobuntu MPCC (Western Cape) were presented particularly the history, and the management of these centres.

2.2 DPSA Overview

DPSA’s presentation by Mr. Mashwahle Diphofa emphasised the need to promote service delivery with focus mainly at government-citizen interface at institutional level. He also indicated the need to encompass Batho-Pele principles in rendering Services to citizens/clients. Some of the major challenges he highlighted included high levels of unskilled personnel in certain key service areas and undesirable attitudes towards work and serving the people. Mr. Diphofa indicated that ‘government has to explore and utilise innovative mechanisms of service provision’ [and that] ‘the desirability and feasibility of different innovative service delivery mechanisms depend on the context’.

According to Mr. Diphofa, MPCCs as one of the innovative mechanisms of service delivery, provide for:

  • improved access to government services for citizens
  • convenience where more services are rendered within one place/under one roof
  • better utilisation of redundant infrastructure
  • improved opportunities for being responsive to community needs and promoting participatory governance
  • prospects for integration of services

In conclusion, Mr. Diphofa highlighted the issues of sustainability and accountable identifying human resource practices as key issues that should be treated with caution when embarking on any innovative service delivery mechanism.

The above presentations drew four key observations, that is:

  • The Office of the Public Service Commission (OPSC) should play a critical role in monitoring and evaluating service provision and adherence to committed service standards by departments rendering services in MPCCs
  • There is a need to integrate some of the functions at MPCCs and also a need to have integrated approaches to service delivery especially at high levels where strategic direction and focus should be derived
  • Government departments operating and/or rendering services within MPCCs should be seen as adding value to the centres’ activities and also ensuring that the needs of the community are addressed
  • There is a dire and urgent need to provide training for the purpose of multi-skilling officials rendering services at MPCCs. It was also indicated that SAMDI has identified training needs for such officials and should therefore start as soon as possible within MPCCs. This is an area which needs to be followed up by GCIS to ensure that Center Managers are capacitated to be in a position to deal with the complex and challenging needs of administering MPCCs.

2.3. GCIS Overview

Dr Sefora Masia from GCIS made a presentation that provided the historical background towards the establishment of MPCCs. She indicated that the MPCC Programme was initially intended as a way of bringing government information services closer to the people by the then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki. The focus has now shifted to include all government services to be provided in an integrated way, and therefore MPCCs have been designed to provide information and services in a co-ordinated way. The government officially adopted MPCCs through a Cabinet Memorandum No. 15 of 1999 and the MPCC’s fundamental principles were and still are informed by Batho Pele principles. Dr Masia mentioned that the Northern Cape was visited before embarking on the MPCC approach, to draw lessons from their experience. She confirmed that there are twelve (12) MPCCs that are already launched and that by March 2003, it is envisaged that one MPCC shall have been launched in each District Municipality nationwide. A total of sixty such centers are envisaged with two MPCCs planned in districts which are vast or densely populated.

She alluded to the fact that GCIS would not have made much progress without strategic partnership with the following departments, and institutions:

  • DPSA for its leading role in the development of Batho Pele principles of service delivery, which would be incorporated into the MPCC operations
  • The DPSA has also set an example for other departments by playing a supportive role in the MPCC initiative
  • Community-based Public Works Programme would refurbish and/or construct MPCC facilities
  • Parastatals including SITA, CSIR and ESKOM would assist with technological configurations while Telkom is responsible for installing telephone and Internet lines into MPCC’s.

Dr Masia highlighted several key challenges with regard to co-ordination:

  • Commitment to sharing of plans and strategies or roll-out plans;
  • Insufficient information-sharing across the board on MPCCs; and
  • Funding as central in the launching of MPCCs and toward the sustainability of MPCCs

In concluding her presentation, Dr Masia highlighted the critical need for sustainability of centres, emphasising that some departments are not consistent with service delivery and/or rendering services - once the MPCC has been established and launched. She also highlighted the critical shortage of resources for centres to operate effectively.

2.4. Northern Cape’s One-stop Shop Service Delivery

Mr Bashir Fleming from the Premier’s Office in the Northern Cape made a presentation, which provided a historical background on the establishment of a One-Stop Shop Project (OSSP). He indicated that the OSSP was taking forward the Premier’s vision of establishing a One-Stop facility that would be accessible and convenient to all the people in the Province.

One-Stop Shop / Centre was established as a pilot to determine an alternative type of delivery system for government services and to test this approach as a way of improving the lives of people. The Centre is designed to:

  • Provide customer focused, integrated service delivery;
  • Provide a high quality of service;
  • Make use of technology to link Service Providers at the OSS with existing electronic resources in order to provide better and more efficient delivery of information to the public.

He highlighted some principles to which the success of One-Stop Shop could be attributed:

  1. Needs driven

The service centers should be responsive to the needs of the communities and allow for feedback from service recipients, to accommodate improvements on the delivery of services. Training to allow for multi-skilling, particularly customer care training, should be provided for efficiency;

  1. Self-funding

The idea is to work towards sustainable incentives, given the shortage of financial resources in the public service. The current running costs of the OSS amounts to R 120 000 per month, and there is potential for an increase as more and more customers use the facility; and

  1. Mobilising information technology

It is possible for IT companies to upgrade their old computers and donate these to the centre, where they will be fruitfully utilised. These donations should be actively pursued, with caution on software compatibility.

In his concluding remarks, he emphasised that a key to success is to be able to deliver against set terms of reference, be responsive to the customer’s needs, evaluate the mechanism and reflect on the impact the initiative has made. This could be achieved through statistical backup of transactions, type of transactions and customer satisfaction levels.

3. Breakaway sessions

The purpose of this session was to get a picture of how the MPCC’s/OSS operate. Although a lot of success stories were reported, three categories of challenges were raised:

  1. Structural problems relating to infrastructure needs, emanating from too many customers who are beginning to use MPCC’s.
  2. Organisational and process problems pertaining to the arrangements that departments would need to consider in terms of staffing related matters and the co-ordination of functions, both influenced by budgets and accountability relationships, as well as the management of complaints and unavailable Services; and
  3. Financial problems pertaining to setting up, running and sustaining MPCC’s.

4. Lessons Learnt

From discussions in groups, an understanding of successes and challenges in implementing the Shared Service Delivery approach through MPCCs, emerged.

4.1. Successes

  1. Ownership of the project at the highest level was critical and central to the success of Northern Cape MPCC initiative. It was noted that the majority of Premiers’ Offices had taken ownership of the project. This locality (Premier’s Office) provides for credibility and legitimacy, strategic leadership and focus, and also provides targeted intervention through directives to line departments; integration of government services works efficiently and effectively and also provides for easy access to different government services to the community - under one roof;
  2. Government services on offer are accessible (in many cases within walking distance) to the community and people are assisted in their own language which makes understanding of the needs/requests of the community better;
  3. MPCCs provide an opportunity to identify other critical services desperately needed by the community - and are not necessarily offered in the centre;
  4. MPCCs enrich the process of involving the community in government service delivery, which also allows the community to have the knowledge of how government operates/works; and
  5. MPCCs are cost effective and they allow for the provision of different government services under a single roof and providing accessibility and mobility of government services.

4.2. Challenges

  1. The involvement of the relevant stakeholders is imperative for the MPCC project to succeed.
  2. There is a need to advertise MPCCs as fully-fledged government institutions and not as ad hoc entities; hence a clear marketing strategy should be built into the business plan of every prospective MPCC project.
  3. Lack of communication between the MPCC initiative and participating government departments is hampering implementation and there is a need to have a champion in every department, who will facilitate the flow of information and decision-making.
  4. Operational MPCCs should interface with each other and share experiences, service delivery modes and tools like budgets, human resources, infrastructure, in order to promote effective utilization of resources.
  5. Local Governments should see MPCCs as enablers of their service delivery business and as being complementary to their service provision efforts rather than as competitors and/or hindrances to their efforts which was reported as having been the perception in certain areas.
  6. The role of the Centre Manager should be clearly defined because s/he is the strategic contact point between the centre and local, provincial and national government departments and should not be seen to be operating in a vacuum.
  7. Budget constraints place huge limitations on Service Providers and also impact on the quality of service delivery, unless provincial/national line departments budget for stationery, equipment, etc. to be utilised at the centre.
  8. DPSA and GCIS should sensitise other national departments (especially line function departments) about MPCCs and their strategic position with regard to innovative service delivery;
  9. There is a lack of communication between local steering committees and provincial steering committees and therefore no report back on critical decisions occurs. Therefore, clear management structures with concise responsibilities and clear reporting mechanisms should be institutionalised into the MPCC establishment process.
  10. The government is seen as being very slow in setting up centres, but it is imperative to indicate that provinces should be pro-active in identifying the need, the infrastructure, equipment, etc. and thereafter rallying the support of the national government.
  11. Implementation and/or establishment of MPCCs is different in every province or community and should therefore consider the context within which each center is being established, although there is much scope for the importing of lessons and experiences from other areas in South Africa. This means, however, that MPCC establishment should be flexible and supported by site visits to allow for customisation.
  12. MPCCs are development centres and should devise means to empower the communities they operate within.

5. The Way Forward

It is evident that there is a dire need to address the above-mentioned challenges to ensure the alignment of structural, process and financial issues.

  1. DPSA’s Learning and Knowledge Management Unit should facilitate inter-provincial and cross national line departments’ forums where issues affecting MPCCs and the implementation of the Shared Service Delivery approach can be addressed.
  2. GCIS should workshop with local government about national government initiatives so as to avoid duplication and unnecessary conflict. <
  3. Integrated Services should also translate into integrated funding, i.e. departments rendering services within MPCCs should pool and share scarce resources like desktop, fax, telephone lines, furniture, communication material/resources etc.;
  4. Line departments like Home Affairs, Health, Welfare, should design "easy-to-use" guides outlining required documentation/alternative, processes and procedures to access and/or secure their services;
  5. A national management structure should be set-up to provide for interface between local, provincial and national steering committees and departments; and
  6. There is an urgent need to get the OPSC on board to evaluate and monitor the impact of integrated service delivery through the already existing and operational MPCCs
  7. The model of a One-stop Service Centre as developed by the Northern Cape provincial government can be regarded as a key reference model for this approach.


It is recommended that:

  • the report be noted
  • DPSA should initiate institutional appraisal on MPCCs and also develop a policy determining how departments should work together (agency agreement)
  • policy interventions be effected to sustain the initiative especially pertaining to the alignment of identified structural, process and financial issues, while ensuring compliance to rules and regulations in the Public Service
  • The Ministers of both DPSA and GCIS, as well as the respective Directors-General should play a visible role in support of the partnership and the Shared Service Delivery approach.

Some of the most important policy areas identified by the workshop include:

  • Public Service Regulations(PSR)
  • Public Finance Management Act (PFMA)
  • Municipal Systems Act (MSA)

For further information please feel free to contact:

Faith Kasonkola: 012 314 7372 (DPSA)

Michael Currin: 012 314 2189 (GCIS)

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