Sticking to the Numbers: Performance Monitoring in South Africa, 2009-2011


President Jacob Zuma took office in 2009 amid a wave of demonstrations by South Africans protesting the government’s poor record in delivering basic services. During the 15 years since the end of apartheid, South Africa had made strides in extending basic services to previously underserved communities, but frustration with the pace of progress boiled over in early 2009. During his first month in office, Zuma established a Ministry of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation to improve service delivery by ministries. Two key officials in the new ministry, Ketso Gordhan and Ronette Engela, identified three major reasons for the government’s poor performance: a lack of accountability at the upper levels of ministries, decentralized and often ad hoc policy planning, and poor interministerial coordination. They devised a system that reorganized ministries around 12 policy goals and set data-based performance targets for ministers and departments. They succeeded in focusing departments on setting measurable performance targets, but as political support waned, the sustainability of the system came into doubt. This case study offers insights on building the accountability of managers in the civil service and improving the quality of policy planning by setting measurable performance targets.

Jonathan Friedman drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Johannesburg and Pretoria, South Africa, in March and April 2011. Case published August 2011.
performance management
service delivery
Focus Area(s)
Centers of Government
Civil Service
Critical Tasks
Evaluating performance
Inter-ministerial coordination
Performance management system
Core Challenge
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform
South Africa
Case Studies
Jonathan (Yoni) Friedman