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Overview of Public Service Delivery 

Categories: Service


Government makes many services available to all citizens living within their jurisdiction either through the public sector or by making services available by paying for it themselves and the latter being so that it is accessible to all regardless of income class with some like Barker (1964: 226-228) to believe that the state renders services to its citizens because it owes them services. He believes that services are due to the citizens by virtue of the rights they hold, as the functions of the state and the rights of its citizens cannot be separated.

In terms of section 40 of the Constitution, 1996, the spheres of government in the Republic are constituted as:

  • National
  • Provincial
  • Local

The spheres must observe and follow principles of the Constitution. Because each sphere is distinctive, it has its own area of operation. The functions of the state, however, are also interdependent. Thus, three spheres must co-operate and acknowledge each other’s area of jurisdiction. This results in the need for a co-operative government.

It also requires ways of dealing with intergovernmental relations that this type of government produces.

The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) sets the policies and framework for the Public Service at national and provincial level.

Several departments only exist at the national level because they deal with issues that concern the whole country and not local or provincial as these issues carry real weigh on the country as a whole. Examples are Defence, Foreign Affairs, Water and Forestry, Science and Technology, Trade and Industry, Mineral and Energy, Public Enterprises, Home Affairs and Public Service and Administration.

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Other departments have national and provincial departments because they deal with direct provincial service delivery to the public on behalf of the national government. A concern that should not be at a national level and should be discussed is the recent allegations as noted Mail & Guardian coming from the national government that they plan to lay off 30000 public servants or the later detailed plans as explained by the Public Service and Administration Minister, Ayanda Dlodlo that there were plans to restructure. This was done with no transparency among the labour unions with some information coming via news outlets and leaks that caused general outcry and panic in the public sector.

Local Sphere

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 is unique in the South Africa context, because it acknowledges the local government as a distinctive, interdependent and interrelated partner in the system of government.

The local government is made up of municipalities, which must be established for the whole area of the Republic.

A municipality is authorized to govern, on its own initiative, the local government affairs of its own community subject to national and provincial legislation as provided in the Constitution. Thus, although the local government sphere is recognized as an equal partner, it has to recognize legislation passed by the other two spheres. This ensures the indivisibility of the state, as required in section 1 of the Constitution. Government is divided into these spheres in an attempt to better communication between its citizens.

The local sphere of government has been divided into three categories of the municipalities:

  • Metropolitan municipalities:

Metropolitan municipalities as noted by existing in the six biggest cities in South Africa. The metropolitan municipality has the duty and responsibility to co-ordinates the delivery of services to the whole area.

  • Local municipalities:

These places that fall outside of the six metropolitan municipal areas are divided into local municipalities. In South Africa there are a total 231 of these local municipalities and each municipality is broken into wards. The residents in each ward within the municipality are represented by a ward councillor and acts on the people interest.

  • District municipalities:

These municipalities are made up of a numerous amount of local municipalities that fall in one district and they are consist of usually between 3 – 6 local municipalities that come together in a district council and there are 47 district municipalities within South Africa. The district municipality has the duty to coordinate development and delivery of various services in the whole district and where it plays a stronger role in areas where local municipalities lack the capacity to deliver.

Government decisions as a whole impact every sphere below and itself As noted by Claudi Mailovich (2018) she states ‘Provincial and local government takes a hit Gigaba makes the trade-off for free higher education’. The Former minister announced the planned spending for 2018/2019 was affected by reprioritization and reductions that had been undertaken since the 2017 medium-term budget policy statement. This effects municipality and provincial governments as money allocated towards them were now taken away despite The SA Local Government Association pleading with President Cyril Ramaphosa before his state of the nation address. The minister said during the 2018 budget speech ‘we would like to be able to allocate more to each sphere for service delivery, and a larger share to local government, but the reality is that the rising cost of servicing our national debt leaves fewer resources available to invest in services across all three spheres of government ‘. This requires government departments to take expert care in using public funds they are given but weaknesses in planning and budgeting at municipal level remain.

According to section 151(2) of the Constitution, the authority to legislate is vested in municipal councils. Section 157(1) of the Const. determines that municipal councils must consist of members elected according to a system of proportional representation.

Health as a Development Imperative

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ (Phillips & Verhasselt, 1994:3).

The state of good health in a country could be attributed to various possible reasons, for example, good facilities, enough qualified health workers and the availability of required resources. However, the underlying factors of all these reasons are that the necessary funds that the national government does not allocate enough money and expertise are available to provide adequate health facilities and services. Without this, the health status in a country will most probably be unacceptable.

Bad health could be the result of various undesirable circumstances. Plummer (1993:31) identifies a disease, poor quality of water, unsatisfactory hygiene, poor nutrition, poverty and stress as the main factors affecting health.

Strong and successful economies contribute to larger incomes, better income contribution and a larger standard of living. Together with this, better service delivery, including health services, manifests in the improved health status of a country.

Since 1994, the South African government has embarked on an extensive program of primary health care with the objective of preventing ill health by providing basic medical assistance to people, especially the poor. This emphasis shifted to basic health care.

This culminated in the:

  • The building of more clinics
  • Provision of clean water to millions of people
  • Provision of houses for homeless people.

Department of Transport and Public Works

The Attacks on the public transport system where trains are being burnt in an attempt to disrupt the derailment services being provided by government as noted by Tammy Petersen (2018) where she states that ‘The torching of trains and other vandalism has become so severe that Metrorail’s central line, which previously had 33 trains transporting commuters in Cape Town, is now down to only eight’. The current minister of Transport mentions that ‘all three tiers of government were working together to deal with the vandalism’. These attacks are currently believed to be motivated politically as the Prasa board are undergoing a major overhaul of staff and allegations of corruption and resource mismanagement within the company as handed out irregular contracts and failure to comply with its own supply-chain policy. The attacks on the trains are evidence to the government to hasten their clean and provide efficient services.


The public services made available to all citizens are often influenced by politics and this is both a problem as well the answer with governance and government all impacting the delivery of services to citizens with every sphere of government working in tandem to better their communication as well improve in all aspects so that and successful economies can contribute to larger incomes, better income contribution and a larger standard of living and with this, better service delivery in South Africa.

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Overview of Public Service Delivery . (2021, Apr 05). Retrieved from

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