Performance management and development system for senior managers in the public service : a case study of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education.
The performance management and development system for senior managers in the South African Public Service, the focus of this study, was introduced in 2002 with a view to improve productivity, individual and organisational performance. In Provincial Education Departments, the Member of the Executive Council, responsible for education, is entrusted with the responsibility of promoting the mandate of the government-of-the-day, namely, quality basic public education. Responsibilities and functions are consequently delegated to senior managers of the Department and performance is managed through a performance contract that is legally binding. This contractual performance-oriented relationship between the executing authority and the accounting officer is monitored and evaluated, and is enforced with either rewards or sanctions. In the South African Public Service, the performance management and development system has been prompted by the transformative agenda set for the public service since 1995, and the public service is expected to operate within the New Public Management (NPM) paradigm with a focus on achievement of measurable results and acceptable levels of service delivery. This meant that there had to be a shift from bureaucratic rule-driven approaches in public service management to a results-oriented approach to government performance. Furthermore, the goal-directed approach was replaced with an outcomes-based approach. The pursuit of goals did not necessarily result in the improvement of performance in the organisation. With the introduction of the performance management and development system for the senior management service in the public service, an infrastructure of systems and elaborate processes were introduced, such as drawing up of performance agreements, agreeing on what has to be delivered, designing work plans and appraising performance. Managers must undergo quarterly performance reviews by their supervisors and capacity deficits are addressed through training and development to enhance skills and knowledge. Performance is appraised annually in April of each year. The performance management and development system is focuses on individual and institutional performance. The performance of several managers in the public service cannot be deemed as optimal. The matriculation results in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education have been progressively declining since 2004. The performance of learners in KwaZulu-Natal especially in nationally conducted systemic evaluation tests for grade six in 2005 relating to numeracy and literacy indicated that the average performance has been 36 and 38 percent respectively. The statistics is reflective of a sample of learners. Moreover, the performance of grade 6 learners in tests conducted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisational (UNESCO) in conjunction with the Southern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) show that the performance of learners is less than satisfactory. On the other hand, the performance of managers is considered as fully effective. The public service overall and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education in particular, are complex organisations and often, the causal relationship between individual and organisational performance is not easily evident. Measuring and managing performance is therefore incongruent. The disjuncture between individual performance and organisational performance is the import of this study. Studies conducted particularly by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) refer in the main to either organisational performance or performance of member countries. This research study has been prompted by several studies undertaken by departments in the public service and the Public Service Commission (PSC) whereby performance is investigated within the context of optimal productivity and service delivery improvement. The study of the performance management and development system in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education is underpinned by goal-setting theory and the principal-agency theory. The fundamental principle of the goal-setting theory is that an agency, organisation or government department sets a series of goals and objectives, and these goals and objectives are aligned to direct the performance of the organisation. The goals of the department are cascaded from the executive authority through to all employees. The expectation is that, through a process of collaboration, co-ordination and endeavours of commitment, the goals of the Department can be achieved. The principal-agency theory purports that the responsibility and authority for the production of public goods and public services are delegated to public managers by the executive authority and accountability for results is managed by performance contracts, rewards and sanctions. The research strategies employed for this study were both qualitative and quantitative. For the qualitative strategy, data was gathered through interviews and observation and for the quantitative strategy, a purpose-designed questionnaire was used to examine and report on causal relationships. Appropriate statistical techniques were used to analyse the gathered data. Emanating from the data analysed, the study found that not all managers take cognisance of the goals that direct performance management in Education. Moreover, poor performance of the organisation is attributable to employees being neither rewarded, nor sanctioned for good or poor performance respectively. Further, there are no consequences when the organisation performs poorly. It has also been found that the performance management and development system as it is applied to senior managers in Education was conducted as a matter of compliance. Whilst managers have acknowledged that individuals’ performance impact on the overall performance of the organisation, they however, refused to take ownership and responsibility for the poor performance of the organisation. The individualistic nature of the performance management and development system contributes to shifting of responsibility and accountability within the organisation. With this in mind, certain recommendations have been made. A new theoretical model is proposed to integrate performance of the organisation and performance of individuals with a view to increasing productivity. This perspective on performance management will however, require further research. All senior managers ought to have fixed-term performance contracts not exceeding five years, renewable if acceptable levels of performance are rendered. It is also recommended that external moderators should be enlisted to perform moderation of scores obtained during the performance appraisal process to ensure that objectivity is upheld. Managing the performance of senior managers particularly in the South African Public Service, and demanding greater accountability are crucial to achieving organisational results and fulfilling the mandate of government. The performance of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education can improve with stricter adherence to the tenets of performance management, emphasis on monitoring performance, demanding higher levels of accountability for resources employed and rewarding managers for good organisational performance whilst sanctioning poor performance.