Service Delivery Standards Guidelines

  1. Introduction

 Since 1983, in Ghana, institutional reforms towards decentralization at the district-level were promoted. The Local Government Service is the newest and largest Public Service organization in the country with a mandate to lead the process of administrative decentralization. The decentralization process at the Local Government Service was initiated to ensure that the public service at the local level provides timely and high quality services to the local population.

The overall objective of this document is to provide information on service delivery standards and also to assist in building the capacity of the various stakeholders in developing and implementing service delivery standards in the Local Government Service. The specific objectives are to enable the participants at the Workshop to

  • Better understand the concept of service delivery standards.
  • Acquire accurate information about service delivery standards.
  • Acquire expertise, including knowledge, skills and attitude for facilitating training on designing and implementing service delivery standards concept in decentralization environment.

These guidelines are developed as part of the efforts to improve the performance of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and to promote efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability in terms of service delivery.

  1. Purpose of Guidelines

The purpose of the guidelines is to enhance the facilitation process that will take place and where different stakeholders will come together to discuss the service delivery standards. The guidelines are prepared in recognition that Local Government Service needs to institutionalize mechanisms for continuously improving the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery in order to realize value for scarce resources and to deepen the decentralization process of result orientation and client focus in service delivery.

  1. Decentralization Defined 

Decentralization has special importance in developing countries, including Ghana not only for administrative reasons, but also because it is a means of developing increased understanding, cooperation and participation in new national programmes of social and economic development Decentralization is the transfer of authority and responsibility for public functions from the central government to intermediate and local governments. Decentralization is part of the overall governance system of any society. It is the process by which authority, responsibility, power, resources and accountability are transferred from the central level of government to the local levels.

Decentralizing government enables people to participate more directly in governance processes and can help empower people previously excluded from decision making. In this way a country can create and sustain equitable opportunities for its entire people. Closer contact between government officials and local communities and organizations also encourages the exchange of information that can be used to formulate development programmes that are tailored to local needs and priorities and this are more effective and sustainable.

Decentralization is a way to enable civil society to participant in the policy process and thus, to increase transparency and predictability of decision making. Local governments are generally better informed about, and more responsive to, the needs and preferences of local populations than central governments. It is easier for them to identify and reach the poor as long as local politics permit this. Decentralization also has the principal advantage that local officials can be more easily monitored and controlled by the local communities than officials in the central government, if the rule of law exists on the local level. Decentralization can be powerful in achieving development goals by assigning control rights to people who have the information and incentives to make decisions best suited for those needs. It can also be seen as a way to increase accountability of local officials by bringing authority to the local level. Decision making at the local level gives more responsibility, ownership and thus incentives to local agents, and as a result, public service improves.

  • The transfer of power, functions and responsibilities from the central government to local government is intended to achieve the following objectives:
  • Transfer real power to the districts, thereby reducing the workload of the remote and underresourced central government officials;
  • Bring political and administrative control over services to the point that they can actually be delivered, thereby improving accountability and effectiveness and promoting people’s ownership of programmes and projects executed in their districts;
  • Free local officials from central government constraints and, as a long-term goal, allow them to develop organizational structures tailored to local circumstances;
  • Improve financial accountability and responsibility by establishing a clear link between payment of taxes and provision of services they finance; and
  • Improve the capacity of local council to plan, finance, and manage the delivery of services to their constituents.

3.1.   The Importance of Decentralization

  • Local governments are generally better informed about, and more responsive to, the needs and preferences of local populations than central government.
  • It is easier for local governments to identify and reach the poor.
  • Service delivery is improved at the local level, meaning that the local government can deliver service such as water, education, sanitation, health, etc effectively.

3.2.     Types of Decentralization

  • Political decentralization
  • Administrative decentralization
  • Fiscal decentralization
  • Legal decentralization

3.3.     Administrative Decentralization

The Local Government Service has the mandate to lead the process of administrative decentralization.Administrative decentralization involves the transfer of decision-making authority, resources and responsibilities for the delivery of a selected number of public services, including water, health, education and sanitation from the central government. There are basically three forms of administrative decentralization as follows:

  • Deconcentration redistributes decision‐making authority and financial and management responsibilities among different levels of the central government. It can merely shift responsibilities from central government officials in the capital city to those working in regions, provinces or districts, or it can create strong field administration or local administrative capacity under the supervision of central government ministries.
  • Delegationis a more extensive form of decentralization. Through delegation, central governments transfer responsibility for decision‐making and administration of public functions to semi‐autonomous organizations not wholly controlled by the central government, but ultimately accountable to it.
  • Devolution is often considered the most radical form of decentralization. When governments devolve functions, they transfer authority for decision‐making, finance, and management to quasi‐autonomous units of local government with corporate status.
  1. Decentralization and Service Delivery Standards

In the last quarter century, over 75 countries have attempted to transfer responsibilities of the State to lower tiers of government. The Motivation for the decentralization has varied. In Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union, it was part of the political and economic transformation; in Latin America, it was to reinforce to transition to democracy; in South Africa, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, it was a response to ethnic or regional conflict; and in Chile, Uganda and Cote d’Ivoire, it was to improve the delivery of basic services. Even when it is not explicit, improving service delivery is an implicit motivation behind most of these decentralization efforts.

The reasons are twofold. First, these basic services, such as health, education, water and sanitation, all of which are the responsibility of the State, are systematically failing – and especially failing poor people. That governments are falling short of their responsibility to ensure adequate health, education, water and sanitation to their people can be seen at various levels. The second reasons why improving service delivery is behind most decentralization efforts is that these services are consumed locally. Yet, the central government in most countries assumes responsibility for the delivery of these services. Many governments and their electorates associate the problems of service delivery with the centralization of these services

  1. Decentralization and Service Delivery Standards in Other Developing Countries

 Decentralization of authority over administering redistribution programmes to local communities has recently become widespread in the developing world. These initiatives have transferred responsibility of procurement, selection of projects and identification of beneficiaries from central ministries to local governments. Decentralization is currently practiced by several countries in other developing nations in order to improve service delivery. Some of these countries include Uganda, South Africa and Botswana. Uganda is one country that decentralized in order to deliver better public services to the people. The Local Government Act 1997 places responsibility for delivery of most services with the Local Government. The objective was to ensure that delivery of services was responsive to local needs and also that the available limited resources were utilized in the efficient and effective manner. In South Africa, the Government through the Department of Public Service and Administration took initiative in 1997 and introduced service delivery standards which require government departments to establish service delivery standards and to use the standards in managing clients’ expectations as a means to improving clients’ satisfactions. These service delivery standards have to be communicated to people so that they are aware of what level of service they can expect from departments.

  1. Definition of Service Delivery Standards

 Service delivery standards are the minimum level of expected services in terms of quality, process, time and cost that the Local Government Service commits to deliver to its clients or those that the clients should expect to receive. Local Government Service delivery standards aspire to meet the local standards based on unique circumstances of a district or community.

 Ghanaians are entitled to know what they should expect from government, how services will be delivered, what services cost and what clients can do when services they receive are not acceptable.  These standards should include:

  • A description of the service provided and, where applicable, the benefits clients are entitled to receive.
  • Service pledges or principles describing the quality of service delivery clients should expect to receive.
  • Specific delivery targets for key aspects of service.
  • Cost of delivering the service.
  • Complaint and redress mechanisms clients can use when they feel standards have not been met.
  1. Benefits of Service Delivery Standards

 Service delivery standards provide a practical way to manage performance in an   era of fiscal restraint and help shape the expectations Ghanaians have of government services. With service delivery standards, services can be improved and delivered at reduced cost by:

  • refocusing services on clients.
  • finding out what clients consider to be critical aspects of government services and service delivery.
  • giving managers the flexibility to respond to client needs.
  • developing proper incentives to promote innovation.
  • monitoring and analyzing performance against realistic targets and standards.
  • As an integral part of good management, service delivery standards
  • promote partnership in quality client service.
  • provide the means to measure service performance and costs reliably.
  • provide meaningful information on the content, value and method of service delivery.
  • use performance and client satisfaction information to guide operational decisions to improve service standards and actual performance continually.
  1. Objectives of Developing, Documenting and Disseminating Service Delivery Standards

The objectives for developing local service delivery standards are to:

  1. a)    Define minimum levels of services that Local Government should provide and service recipients should expect in terms of quantity, quality, time and cost.

  1. b)    Determine minimum cost implications for providing services.

  1. c)    Empowers service recipients and communities to demand for services that are due to them at the appropriate standard and provide a basis upon which feedback on level of satisfaction against the standards is evaluated.

  1. d)    Provide a basis for review of management systems and processes.

  1. e)    Provide uniformity and consistence in the provision of services at the local levels.

  1. f)    Provide yardstick in relation to planned targets which both the service provider and client can use to measure, monitor and evaluate performance and undertake performance reporting, performance improvement, planning and budgeting.

  1. g)    Enforce quality assurance and compliance mechanisms for service delivery against local standards and best practices.

  1. Service Standards and  Their Classification  

Service standards are a commitment by the organization to provide a certain level of service to clients. The role of service standards is to answer the under-listed questions and to let clients know what kind of service they can expect:

v  How long should it take to provide a service?

v  How often will a service be provided?

v  What can people do if they are not satisfied?

Service standards are goals that an organization should try to achieve. The under-listed are examples of service standards:

  1. a)Processing of Application

v  In person, our goal is to have your passport ready for pick in five (5) working days. By mail, our goal is to mail your passport to you ten (10) working days after we receive your application.

v  We will endeavour to process import permit application within 24 hours of receipt.

  1. b)Response to Correspondence

v  We will reply written correspondence concisely and accurately, and endeavour to do so within five working days of receipt.

v  We will attempt to reply to all correspondence within 5 days. Where we cannot meet the 5 days standard, we will send you an acknowledgement within two days. The acknowledgement will include an explanation of why the standard cannot be met and a commitment to a new day for reply.

  1. c)Visiting

v  If visiting our office during the hours of noon to 2.00 pm, you can expect to wait 40 minutes for service. As other times of the day, we will see you in 20 minutes.

Service standards include five essential elements namely:

  1. a)    Descriptionsof the service the organization intents to provide and where applicable, the benefitsclients are entitled to receive;

  1. b)    Service pledgeor principledescribing the quality of service delivery clients should expect to receive as openness, fairness, courtesy, professionalism, choice of official language where applicable, etc;

  1. c)    Specific delivery targetsfor key aspects of service, such as timeliness, access and accuracy;

  1. d)    The costof delivering the service, and

  1. e)    Complaintsand redressmechanisms that clients can use then they feel standards have not been met.

Service standards have one critical element call specific delivery targets. These describe the key aspects of the service and also represent the quantifiable aspects of the service, such as timeliness, accessibility, reliability, responsiveness, and etc.

  • Timeliness refers to the time required to complete the service transaction.

  • Accessibility refers to the availability of a service to a client. It includes the number of contacts, locations, or people involved in completing the service transaction, hours of operation; clear language (both spoken and written); convenience, ease of access and design of service location; and the number of service delivery methods available (such as telephone, mail, in person, visit or electronic methods).

  • Reliable refers to the quality of information provided during the service transactions.

–      How do clients perceive the knowledge and competence of the staff?

–      Do they get correct answer?

–      Is information consistent from one employee to another?

–      Do staff protect clients’ confidentiality?

  • Responsiveness refers to the way employees handle the service transaction, It includes employees’ ability to communicate clearly and easily; their courtesy and helpfulness; their understanding of clients’ needs; the pride they take in their work; and their ability to handle diversity.

The delivery targets serve two purposes. First, they help to establish realistic expectations among clients, based on what the organization can deliver. Secondly, they establish performance expectations for the entire organization. Performance expectations, which will be an element of the organization’s performance management system, enable the employees to work with greater confidence knowing the level of performance expected of them by their organization and the public.

Service delivery standards shall be classified as follows:

  1. a)    Professional standards– relate to human resources in stock and in the process of being developed. Human resources are at the forefront of public service delivery. The quality of services provided depends on the quality of the human resource in terms of numbers, hard skills and soft skills.

  1. b)    Technical standard– qualifications or requirements for materials, performance requirements, products or services.

Process standards – business process or procedure a recipient has to follow in order to access a service


  1. Principles and Core Values for Implementation of Service Delivery Standards

The principles for implementation of service delivery standards shall be as follows:

  1. a)    Client focus: focusing on needs that reflect priorities of service recipients.

  1. b)    Professionalism: adherence to the code of conduct and ethics and to professional codes of conduct, exhibiting a high degree of competence and best practices.

  1. c)    Transparency: openness about all the decisions and actions taken.

  1. d)    Accountability: public trust and responsibility for action and inactions.

  1. e)    Cost efficiency: optimal use of resources including time in the attainment of service delivery objectives.

  1. f)    Effectiveness: achieving the intended results in terms of quality and quantity in accordance with set targets and performance standards set for service delivery.

  1. g)    Participation: engaging partners (e.g., MMDAs, Civil Society, the Private sectors and service recipients0 in implementing, monitoring and evaluating service delivery.

  1. h)    Equity: fair treatment to do all customers irrespective of gender, race, religion, disability, ethnic background and political affiliation.

  1. Measuring of Standards

The type of measuring standards shall be as follow:

  1. a)Quantity: the number or volume of service, output or performance to be delivered or provided. Examples of appropriate unit for the output include number, value, kilometers, area, etc.

  1. b)Quality: theextent to which the output, performance or service satisfies the client and or meets the required set standard. Examples of quality are accuracy and neatness, frequency and degree of errors, thoroughness with which assignments are performed or customer transactions are conducted,

  1. c)Cost: the total cost in terms of money and/or other resources used to deliver an output or service or the user free paid to access a service.

  1. d)Time standard: the duration taken in terms of minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc, to deliver a service or complete a transaction. It is the responsiveness and speed within which a service out to be provided.

  1. e)Process standards: the number of steps or procedures a client expected to go through to obtain a service.

  1. f)Coverage: the extent to which planned outputs or services reach the targeted population.

  1. g)Accessibility: available of a service to clients, including locations, hours of operations, language, convenience and options for obtaining service.

  1. Format for Documenting Service Delivery Standards

The format for documenting service delivery standard shall include:

  1. a)    Mandate of the Metropolitan, District or Assembly (MMDA)

  1. b)    Mission and vision statements

  1. c)    Core values

  1. d)    Strategic objectives

  1. e)    Output/service definition

  1. f)    Indicator definition

  1. g)    Standard (in terms of performance measures

  1. h)    Target recipients of service

  1. i)     Access criteria to obtain a service

  1. j)     Methodology for providing service

  1. k)    Basic infrastructure for providing a service (egg., tools, equipment, building)

  1. l)     User fee

  1. m)  Service delivery point

  1. Procedure for Developing Service Delivery Standards


13.1.   Review the provisions of the legal framework – Local Government  Act, 2003(Act 656)

          It is important to review and confirm the mandate and policy objectives of the MDAs in order to:

  1. a)    Set standards that are within the mandate of the Local Government Service and to avoid setting a standard that is outside the responsibility of the MMDAs.

  1. b)    Establish the legal provision within which the MMDAs operate.

13.2   Define baseline position of service delivery levels

          The baseline position of an organization helps to determine the   current levels  of services provided, and the current standards of services if any, against   which new aspirations can be expressed.

13.3   Harmonize client expectations with existing plans and programmes

          It is important that service delivery standards address the needs and expectations of service recipients. It is good to have an indication of the current level of satisfaction with the services provided and to harmonize them with client expectations.

13.4   Assess available resources

          Standards are to be implemented within available resources. It is therefore important to take into account the requirements for providing services in terms of:

  1. a) Structure and staffing levels

  1. b) Tools, equipment and facilities required

  1. c) Budgetary provisions

  1. d) Revenue projections.

13.5   Document business processes

          A business process has implications on service delivery standards. It may foster or hinder the attainment of a given standard, especially time standards, responsiveness and client satisfaction. It is therefore imperative to document the process that will be used to deliver an output or service, to enable mapping the standards to the processes.

13.6   Set standards for each key output area

          Having taken into account items 9.1 to 9.5 above, service delivery standards may be set in terms of: Quantity; Quality; Cost, Time, Process, Accessibility  and Coverage.

13.7   Consult service recipients and key stakeholders

          The proposed service delivery standards should be subjected to the input of key stakeholders and service recipients. These include but are not limited to:

  1. Political leaders both at the Central and in the Local Government
  2. Private providers of public services
  3. Non-governmental and civil society organizations involved in the delivery and advocacy for services
  4. Direct beneficiaries of the public services.
  5. This will ensure that the standards that are set are realistic and owned by both service providers and service recipients

 13.8   Document, print and disseminate service delivery standards

 Service delivery standards should be documented, printed and widely disseminated in simple material and language. They should be applied in strategic planning at local levels. Service delivery standards should      also be posted on the Local Government Service websites.

 13.9   Implementation at various levels

 Service delivery standards is aimed at improving the quality of service delivery by making clients more aware of the wide array of governmental services and their associated costs and by improving the clients orientation of Public Service employees and thus should be uniformly applied at all levels of Local Governments Service. The service delivery standards should be linked to the organization’s performance management system in order to achieve the quality service delivery. Performance management system is a means of getting better results from the organization, teams and individuals. Its overall aim is to establish a high performance culture in which individual and teams take responsibility for continuous improvement of business processes and   for their own skills and contributions with a framework provided by effective leadership.

 13.10 Monitor and evaluate performance against standards

 Service delivery against service delivery standards shall be monitored   through:

  1. Performance audits, inspections and other quality assurance mechanisms at the local level
  2. Client surveys
  3. National service delivery surveys.

13.11 Review and set new standards

 Service delivery standards should be reviewed every three to five years, and should be linked to the reviews of the strategic plans, to take into account new priorities and the changes in the environment.

  1. Dissemination and Communication of Service Delivery Standards

 Service delivery standards should be communicated through:

  1. Policy documents: development/strategic plans, policy statements, budget framework papers, annual performance plans and reports.
  2. Print– booklets, flyers and posters
  3. Media– television, radio and newspapers.
  4. Conclusion

Efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability in service delivery require that the Local Government Service develop, document, disseminate and apply service delivery standards. This will enable the local public service to be responsive to service recipients and to attain national development objectives.

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