Measuring outputs, neglecting outcomes: The Auditor General’s role in SAPS performance assessments
Performance monitoring, often based on the use of performance indicators, has become a central aspect of the work of government departments in South Africa. Even though the South African Police Service (SAPS) is regarded as one of the leading government departments in the use of performance monitoring systems, it does not use performance information in a critical enough manner, particularly given the risk that the introduction of performance measures will lead to perverse incentives. Given that the SAPS is one of the largest police services in the world, the centralised reporting on organisational performance in the annual report is ineffective. It obscures much more than it reveals about what is being achieved by the organisation. Since 2005 the Auditor General of South Africa has been phasing in a ‘predetermined objectives’ audit that involves checking on the reliability of the performance information presented by the SAPS. Though he has limited capacity to do so, the AG also carries out what are called ‘performance audits’, that involve deeper and more focused scrutiny of the functioning of government departments. A 2008-09 performance audit on service delivery at police stations and 10111 call centres highlights the type of scrutiny that the SAPS needs to be subjected to if information on its performance is to become more meaningful.
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