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n Journal of Public Administration - Partnerships in local government to improve service delivery in South Africa
Governments are looking for alternative ways of delivering high quality services to as many citizens as possible over a short period as possible and yet maintain viable systems in the medium and long-term. Traditionally, government programmes and services were for the most part delivered through government departmental organisations. However, this is no longer the case as governments are increasingly entering into partnerships with more independent agencies to deliver public goods and services to improve the general welfare of inhabitants. The aim of partnerships is to produce practices that improve the quality of life of citizens in public service delivery on all spheres of government. The questions of how citizens can be served better in local government, how the production of public services should be organized, how and by whom service delivery systems should be managed and conducted, are being posed as responses to the challenges of governance in contemporary public administration and management.
Alternatives and solutions are being considered in partnerships between local government, private organizations, and NGOs. The use of partnerships in public management has increased. Concurrently with this notion is the emphasis in recent years on the decentralization and devolution in public programmes. By decentralizing the decision-making and implementation processes from national and or regional to local government, new cooperative programmes were formalized.
Most governance concepts highlight the arrangements and collaborations in which public as well as private, and voluntary sectors aim at both solving societal problems and creating societal opportunities. In addition to this, participation of community groups such as NGOs and business organizations are emphasized, thus the inclusion of all stakeholders in the decision-making processes. Therefore, activating civil society is a key element of local governance. This will ensure that effective and democratic local governance ensures that a "social contract" between citizens, the government, NGOs, and the private sector interest can be achieved. It might mean that both private organizations and NGO's take a more active role in the production of services. However, a critical point will be as to how to develop civic engagement that supports the effectiveness of co-operative arrangements between partners from different sectors.
The aim of this paper is therefore inter alia to create an understanding of the role of partnerships as a local governance tool to improve service delivery, with special reference to the South African situation, and therefore to improve the general welfare of citizens in general.
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