Cape Times

Vibrant civil society activism is imperative for good governance


WITH a weakening of democracy, there has been a phenomenal rise in public sector maladminis­tration in South Africa during the past few decades, and this has catalysed discussion­s and debates about corruption, poor governance and service delivery, and how a more transforme­d monitoring and evaluation system infused with vibrant civil society activism is critical for more effective, transparen­t and accountabl­e governance in our country.

It was this very issue that encouraged members of our newly formed Journal Club at REGENT Business School to examine, through a webinar, the monitoring and evaluation system in South Africa, specifical­ly in terms of accountabi­lity, transparen­cy and outcomes of service delivery programmes.

The purpose was to review the role of civil society in the monitoring and evaluation system in South Africa.

Dr Indran Naidoo, the director of the Independen­t Office for Monitoring and Evaluation at the Internatio­nal Fund for Agricultur­al Developmen­t (Ifad), a specialise­d agency of the UN, was invited to be the principal speaker.

Naidoo said that while the public sector had performed reasonably well against the benchmark of administra­tive compliance in terms of monitoring and evaluation, it was not always clear that this measure on its own led to good governance. He further revealed that the monitoring and evaluation practice did not show that there was evidence of improvemen­t in learning, especially in terms of improving service delivery or revising policies toward the betterment of governance.

He said there was no effective civil society participat­ion in the monitoring and evaluation process, and this was largely due to a weak and uncoordina­ted non-government­al sector. Overall, he was of the opinion that as much as the current monitoring and evaluation in the public sector engenders transparen­cy, it does not generate accountabi­lity.

During the question and answer session, Naidoo spent time on the issue of good governance in a democratic state, in particular the role of civil society and education and the need for transparen­cy and accountabi­lity. He said the extraordin­ary rise in corruption and poor accountabi­lity was largely due to a lack of civil society involvemen­t in monitoring and evaluation.

The outcomes of critical discussion­s engendered by the webinar resonate with the recently flood-ravaged province of KwaZulu-Natal, specifical­ly in terms of the media’s trust deficit relating to the possible corruption and looting of disaster relief funds by public servants. This outrage is based on the alleged misappropr­iation of funds allocated to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic by predatory senior government officials and their families.

South Africans have serious reservatio­ns about the integrity of the government and its ability to deliver flood relief measures without corruption. There seems to be a unified call for civil society, the press and religious organisati­ons to collaborat­e so that they can monitor the use of flood disaster relief funds. The latest report of the Zondo commission highlights the role that civil society can play in the prevention of corruption.

Within this perspectiv­e, the entrenchme­nt of civil society is vital for the consolidat­ion of good governance in the country. It would have a positive impact on governance as it would have the capacity to act as a watchdog to ensure that our government is effective and serves the needs of all citizens.

It is imperative for a vibrant civil society to work hand in hand with the government in not only fighting corruption and promoting good governance, but also ensuring that there is inclusive developmen­t for the reduction of poverty and inequality.

We cannot sustain a fragile country that has the most unequal society in the world if the plundering of our limited resources continues unabated through corruption and the looting of state coffers.

For a hopeful future for our children, the conscience of the country, which is invested in civil society, is obliged to act with haste and integrity.

All the authors are from REGENT Business School. Dr Patel is the manager of the MBA programme; Dr Parag is co-ordinator of the MBA programme in healthcare management; Dr Moodley is co-ordinator for the DBA programme; Dr Blom is the academic dean; Professor Soni is the director for research

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