Underlying these developments in Africa are a combination of increased client expectations regarding the need for better-quality customer services and a desire to improve administrative tasks. In particular, attention is being directed at contribution compliance and collection and the timely processing of new claims. Beyond improving administrative performance, such measures also have more general positive knock-on effects, such as enhancing public confidence in, and legitimizing the credibility of, social security administrations.
For all institutions, governance improvements represent a set of common objectives. Of course, it is for each institution in each country to pursue a strategy appropriate to its own context and situation. Nonetheless, analysis suggests that there are a number of lessons to be shared with regards to “governance” good practices. For instance, one relates to efforts to enhance staff motivation with the aim of better ensuring quality service.
Staff motivation and performance measurement
Examples from Gabon and Ghana showcase that a targeted, tailor-made training programme and the introduction of a Professional Social Security Certificate can achieve positive results for service delivery. Client surveys reveal that staff motivation has increased rapidly in both cases, which positively impacted the payment of benefits and contribution collection to the satisfaction of all concerned. To build further upon achievements, some administrations have introduced an ongoing performance measurement system, not least to detect problems in processes and procedures at an early stage. In Ghana, branch assessment mechanisms were also put in place.
Another good governance element vis-à-vis the staff-stakeholder relationship is operational transparency. The innovative example of the “Clients’ Day” in Tanzania is one way to achieve this goal.(1) The National Health Insurance Fund, Tanzania (NHIF) introduced this regular event to enhance dialogue with stakeholders. The Clients’ Day permits NHIF stakeholders to be informed about major developments and changes that have occurred during the previous year. It also allows the NHIF to report, and to get regular feedback, on important issues, as well as to gauge perceptions about service-delivery in local areas. The Clients’ Day also aims to improve understanding of administrative standards and procedures, and to enhance the awareness of the insured about their rights and obligations. Measurable outcomes of the Clients’ Day include reduced stakeholder complaints, a reduction in the time required to process claims, and improvements in the timely payment of benefits.
Information and communication technology as a strategic priority
ISSA monitoring of social security good practices confirms that high-performing information and communication technology (ICT) systems can improve the quality of client services, while also modernizing procedures and working methods. Well-functioning ICT systems are conducive to the development of a quality culture and are regarded by many managers as a strategic priority.
In Africa, a number of social security administrations have introduced online services for clients. These services are developing to become more comprehensive and user-friendly. To ensure that these objective are realized, a new quality strategy may accompany such developments. In the case of Tunisia’s National Pension and Social Insurance Fund (Caisse nationale de retraite et de prévoyance sociale), a new quality strategy was implemented with a view, for example, to assessing competencies, defining procedures, separating incompatible tasks and introducing a control system capable of improving quality and reducing risks. Staff were involved in the project through a pilot committee and working groups that encouraged participation and ownership. As a result of the quality programme and its certification, and the accompanying training plan that was introduced, the credibility of the institution and staff motivation and skills were measurably improved.
Committed leadership and the right tools
With growing pressure on social security administrations to realize improvements in performance, a good practice approach to governance has become a strategic priority of management. The examples from the Africa region show that it is possible for an organization to significantly change its culture and service-orientation. The role of a committed leadership and the adoption of the right tools and methodologies are crucial in this respect.
The ISSA’s Dynamic Social Security conceptual framework, which aims to assist social security organizations in making decisions about the direction of their policy choices, emphasizes that governance is a key factor in realizing improved organizational performance and programme outcomes. According to resources and needs, it remains for each organization to tailor current good practice governance solutions to meet their own specific circumstances. Ultimately, as one manager has stressed: “The biggest lesson of all is that social security organizations can introduce new and effective practices and unlearn poor habits with the right management tools. It only takes good leadership, time and dedication.”
(1) For further information on improving service delivery in Tanzania, see: Hussein, K. 2008. “Understanding quality of service in a delayed gratification situation: The case of social security providers in Tanzania”, in International Social Security Review , Vo. 61, No. 2.