By Elmond Bandauko
The practice of public administration continues to face a lot of pressure emanating from rising citizen expectations, pressure for the privatisation of public services, legislative controls and the devolution of many responsibilities to lower levels of government. These forces have led to the renewed interest in performance measurement, to make government agencies accountable to both legislatures and the public on how they spend public resources and the results they produce. In Zimbabwe, the Government has launched the Service Level Benchmarking (SLB) as a scientific and objective tool for measuring performance of urban local authorities in terms of provision of clean water, management of waste water (sewerage) and management of solid waste (refuse). Municipalities need to understand how to use performance measurement in decision making and how performance measurement can be integrated into other municipal processes such as strategic planning and budgeting.
Why is performance measurement important for local government?
Municipal policy-makers are increasingly under pressure to deliver local services in an efficient, effective, transparent and accountable manner. On the other hand, tax payers often demand to know how their dollars are being spent and how their services compare from year to year. To keep pace with these demands, municipalities use performance measurement for four main reasons: innovation, enhanced accountability, cost effectiveness and improved performance.
Performance measurement strengthens accountability
Both elected officials and public servants have a responsibility to inform residents what local government plans to achieve, what it is actually achieving and what public services cost. This information will allow taxpayers to make informed decisions about the level of services they desire. This notion of accountability is fundamental to local government. Measuring performance and setting targets effectively establishes an understanding between municipal staff and council, under which all parties develop a clearer understanding of the expected results or standards for each service area. Performance measurement demonstrates to taxpayers how they are being served and the value they are receiving for their tax dollars.
Measurement helps improve performance
Performance management and performance measures can help municipalities develop a continuous system of improvement. Consistent performance measures can help reveal when a program or service is not being delivered properly or effectively, which can result in insufficient services to the public. By setting targets, improvements in performance can also occur. Services can be more easily altered and adjusted to the current situation because the changes are revealed earlier
Performance measurement stimulates productivity and creativity
Performance measures can be used to create new incentives and rewards to stimulate staff’s creatively and productivity. Municipalities may be able to reduce costs while maintaining or even improving service delivery if they implement creative ideas to reach the performance measurement goals. Performance measures can be used to create new incentives and rewards to stimulate staff’s creativity and productivity. Municipalities may be able to reduce costs while maintaining or even improving service delivery if they implement creative ideas to reach the performance measurement goals.
Performance measurement improves budget processes
Performance measures can help municipalities develop budgets that are based on realistic costs and benefits. Performance measurement can also improve the monitoring of municipal budgets by measuring whether the budget and expected service levels are being met.
Key considerations when selecting performance measures
When selecting various performance measures, municipalities may consider addressing some specific perspectives. To fully evaluate programs and services, municipalities should reveal if the programs and services are efficient, effective, and if they are making an impact.
The efficiency perspective refers to input constructs and output constructs. Input constructs of efficiency refer to the ability of the resources to be used for production, while output constructs of efficiency refer to the ability to maximise output with the given resources. Input and output constructs may differ between a municipality’s products and services.
Effectiveness has been defined as the comparison of produced output to the intended output. Constructs of effectiveness are concerned with the extent that the service provided in terms of quantity, location, and character corresponds to the goals and objectives established by the municipality and the needs of the residents.
The impact perspective describes the greater effects of programs and services, while also reflecting the efficiency and effectiveness of the programs and services. The impact perspective can also reveal the external and indirect effects on social well being, economic development, and environmental quality. Impact constructs can also include externalities and indirect effects, both beneficial and adverse, and intended and unintended.
With increased emphasis on efficiency, effectiveness and impact in the public sector, it is important for municipalities to be receptive to introducing performance measures to become more focused on outputs and outcomes of a program. Performance measurements can be integrated to the strategic planning process and budget, which can then help assess accomplishments on a municipal-wide basis. When used in the long-term planning and goal setting process and linked to the municipality’s mission, goals, and objectives, meaningful performance measurements can help identify financial and program results. As a result, municipalities will be able to make informed and evidenced-based decisions about their services and programs.
About the Author
Elmond Bandauko holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) with specialisation in Local government from the University of Western Ontario (Canada) where he studied as an African Leaders of Tomorrow Scholar. He did his BSc. (Hons) in Rural and Urban Planning from the University of Zimbabwe. His interests include participatory policy making, policy innovation and policy diffusion, public management, program and policy evaluation, collaborative governance and the politics of urban development in cities of the global south. You can follow most of his work at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Elmond_Bandauko