10 May 2021
Give the City of Cape Town a challenge, and it’ll excel at overcoming it.
When faced with an unprecedented drought a couple of years ago, the City crafted a highly innovative and successful homegrown plan. So, when the pandemic hit early last year, the City knew not to wait, but to innovate. And they clearly hit the mark again.
In November 2020, the City’s Covid-19 Dynamic Operations Framework tool received the Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA) award for best risk management initiative in the local government sector – the same accolade Cape Town won for its drought response a year before. But that’s not all. In January, the City also scooped Apolitical’s award for global public service team of 2020 in the category “Covid Rapid Responders”.
The administration beat Australian competitor New South Wales’s Digital Channels Unit to the honour. Apolitical is an online global network and learning platform that is funded by governments from across the world. It is used by public servants to share knowledge and promote excellence in public service.
The bespoke Dynamic Operations Framework tool was developed by the City’s Resilience as well as Strategy and Policy departments, led by Craig Kesson, the City’s Executive Director of Corporate Services, says Gareth Morgan, the City’s Resilience Director.
It enabled various City systems – health, disaster, essential services and corporate operations – to be monitored at the same time. This information was then communicated to the Mayoral Committee (Mayco) and Executive Management Team (EMT).
“Because the Covid-19 pandemic has such a wide-ranging impact, we needed a tool that would help us understand and mitigate the risks to the many, interlinked City systems in one shot,” explains Morgan.
The tool helped various departments establish how their activities would or could be affected. “It was updated weekly from April to September 2020 to help us understand the impact of the pandemic, and the insights we gained were presented to decision-makers on an ongoing basis.”
The framework not only enabled essential service delivery to continue, but also aided the disaster management response. The tool is now being reworked to support risk management in Water and Sanitation.
“Ultimately, this enormous effort by a team of committed officials, with the full backing of the City leadership, was for our residents and to save lives, so the recognition is truly humbling,” says Kesson.
According to the City’s Policy and Strategy Director in Corporate Services, Hugh Cole, the approach was strongly data-driven, and gave the City’s teams valuable exposure to world-class, adaptable programme management in response to crises.
“Together with the lessons learned from our drought response, we are steadily increasing the City’s capability to respond to metro-wide shocks. This is critical for Cape Town’s ongoing resilience,” Cole says.
“We knew the City’s response to Covid-19 was effective and excellent in the South African context, but we didn’t really know how we compared globally. That second award gives us a sense that our whole-system response was indeed world-class.”