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Johannesburg - Hundreds of the government’s Thusong service centres across the country have all but collapsed due to poor funding, with national and provincial departments snubbing them despite being built to bring services closer to residents.

There are 420 Thusong centres, and a review by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) has found that the centres are dysfunctional because they lack sufficient space for government entities to operate in, have no internet connectivity, and the physical infrastructure has crumbled.

As a result, other state entities prefer to locate their services elsewhere.

It cost between R7million and R8m to build one Thusong service centre.

“The Thusong programme lacks adequate funding. It receives no direct funding from the national government, and a single point of co-ordination does not exist for the raising of funds.

“As a result, the burden of co-ordinating funding thus falls on municipalities, which are often cash-strapped and/or have other funding priorities,” reads the review of the system.

Many Thusong service centres had over time become dysfunctional, with no efficient space for departments to operate in.

Government departments also had no information and communication technology (ICT) connectivity and the infrastructure had crumbled, thus departments preferred to locate their services elsewhere.

The review also found that the national co-ordination function handled by the Government Communication and Information System is chronically under-resourced.

It described the Thusong centres as a “proliferation of co-ordination structures across the three spheres of government that are generally ineffective”.

There was no workable funding model and insufficient funds for the operations and maintenance of service centres in most provinces, the review found.

It identified, as another challenge, the lack of operational guidelines and standard procedures to support the establishment, operations and maintenance of service centres.

Among the solutions proposed by the review is the development of a dedicated, centralised funding model, in collaboration with the National Treasury, to ensure its effective co-ordination and financial sustainability, to establish and maintain the facilities and ICT infrastructure, and fund the day-to-day operations of the centres.

It also suggested that political and administrative oversight, funding, resourcing, ownership of assets, and the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation, quality assurance and reporting system, should be considered in the development of a framework for operating the centres.

According to the review, a dedicated and centralised funding model should be developed, in collaboration with the National Treasury, to ensure its effective co-ordination and financial sustainability, establish and maintain the facilities and ICT infrastructure, and fund service centres’ day-to-day operations.

The department said reviews were conducted by multiple stakeholders across the country in support of continuous improvement of the implementation of the Thusong service centre programme, which showed the best practices in the implementation and emerging challenges with some of the Thusong service centres.

As the Thusong service centre programme evolved, citizens started demanding services in addition to developmental communication, initially provided as part of the government’s obligations to the rights of citizens.

“The migration from information to service provisioning demanded a different service delivery model, office space, skills and competencies, which are not always readily available,” according to DPSA spokesperson Dumisani Nkwamba.

Further challenges included the need for the Thusong service centres to keep up with the speed to innovate, modernise and leverage off the latest technology requirements of departments to provide services to citizens faster, smarter and with reduced turnaround times, he pointed out.

Nkwamba added that through the National Development Plan and the 2014-2019 Medium-Term Strategic Framework, the government had strengthened the national co-ordination, monitoring and reporting of the Thusong service centres to streamline a development-oriented public service.

He said the department now had a Thusong service centre improvement programme to provide a guiding framework on the establishment, management, maintenance, funding, monitoring and reporting of the programme.

“The programme further intends to provide improved access to government services, while ensuring a speedy response to service delivery through innovation and the use of technology.”

The Star