The stories behind the numbers:
an investigation of efforts to deliver services to the South African poor
Servaas van der Berg & Ronelle Burger, Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch
A report prepared for the World Bank, as background study to the World Development Report 2004
SARPN acknowledges the World Bank's WDR 2004 process as copyright holder on this report.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at a SARPN workshop during late-2002.
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This report for the World Bank Group is meant to complement work being done at both
the country level and internationally about the way social delivery mechanisms can
impact positively or negatively on social outcomes. This report was commissioned to
provide evidence from the South African experience of what works and what does not.
The large number of NGOs and CBOs in South Africa also has contributed to a quite
varied experience with social delivery and to a fair degree of documentation of such
experience, thus creating the possibility of useful insights from these case studies.
This report is focused specifically on the poor and aims at addressing two central
questions pertaining to the poor: вЂњWhat does the South African government spend on
the poor?вЂќ and вЂњHow effective has pro-poor alternative service delivery models been in
South Africa?вЂќ The document has been structured in accordance: it is divided into two
sections, with Section A addressing the first question and Section B devoted to
discussing the second question. Due to the nature of the questions and available sources,
Section A is an integrated argument referring to recent research, while Section B is
presented as a collection of source summaries, loosely tied together by overlapping
themes and short descriptions of relevant circumstances and the policy background.
In answering these two questions the report does not aspire to be a comprehensive
account of South AfricaвЂ™s service delivery experience. In our selection of sources, we
concentrated on studies that contained descriptions of empirical results and lessons to be
learnt. Also, in accordance with our brief, the focus in section B is mostly on nonacademic
or unpublished sources that are often not accessible to researchers, policy
makers and the development community outside South Africa. Many of the sources in
this section are project evaluations for NGOs or the government. Also note that our
summaries are selective representations, with the emphasis on those sections of the
document that describe an alternative service delivery experimentвЂ™s impact on the poor.
Even within this narrower band, the report does not aspire to be comprehensive. The
aim is to provide a snapshot of a selection of interesting experiments and experiences in
pro-poor social spending and service delivery in South Africa.
The nature of the question asked in Section B implies some reliance on anecdotal
evidence and case studies, sources that are often too focused and specific to allow
abstraction. The weakness can however also be a strength. The important contribution of
these types of sources lies in the granularity that it provides, an ingredient that is often
missing from a more abstracted, rigorous and clinical analysis of social delivery. Section
B thus complements the aggregated overview provided in Section A, telling us more
about a few individual experiences with service delivery: how change came about and
what the problems, challenges and pitfalls were.
Section A will consider fiscal incidence and its link to social outcomes. Here it will
become clear what a crucial role social delivery fulfils to ensure that spending is
translated into outcomes. Section B follows with an outline of the results of service
delivery experiments in six areas: primary education, primary health care, water and sanitation, police security, rural roads and social protection. Section B asks questions
about the conditions for efficient service delivery by private or NGO partners, the
effectiveness of community participation, the appropriateness of user fees and even the
stimulation of small business development. Although most of this section consists of
source summaries, there are some brief introductory notes to contextualise the sourcebased
discussions and to raise issues of cross-cutting concern. The appropriate placement
the sources summaries were not always obvious, as some sources deal with more than
one issue. After Section B, the report concludes. An appendix provides contact
information for the sources discussed in Section B.