Cape Town - While not yet ideal, the state's efficiency is steadily improving, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
The government had put in place a number of initiatives since 2009 to improve the functioning of the state, he told the National Assembly.
The performance monitoring and evaluation department's monitoring of management practices was starting to bear fruit in a number of areas.
Zuma was replying to points raised during debate earlier this week on his State of the Nation speech.
"For example, the average time taken to fill a funded vacancy in national and provincial departments has improved from nine months in 2010 to four months in 2012," he said.
The responsiveness of departments to cases referred to them from Chapter Nine institutions and from the national anti-corruption hotline had also improved.
The average time taken to issue an identity document had been reduced from about 150 days to about 30 days.
The barcoded green ID book would be replaced by a new ID smart card in the 2013/2014 financial year. The smart card was intended to prevent fraud, Zuma said.
The average time taken to process an application for a social grant had decreased from 30 days in 2010 to 21 days in 2012.
As had been pointed out by the responsible minister, the training of public servants, including managers, would be prioritised to further improve the capacity of the state.
"This should also bring in much-needed skills and reduce the money we pay to consultants which the auditor general and many honourable members here, have raised alarm about.
"It is also an undertaking made in the National Development Plan that the culture and orientation of the public service will change for the better.
"It is for this reason that we say that if we are to pay public servants better, we want a return on our investment," he said.
Mechanisms had been put in place to improve citizen care and to make the public service friendlier and more responsive.
"We still have a long way to go, but we have made a start."
Important among these was the frontline service delivery monitoring programme.
Over 300 unannounced visits had been undertaken in the past year by officials from the performance monitoring and evaluation department and offices of the premiers.
Repeat visits to sites indicated that, in many cases, the monitoring had resulted in improvements, Zuma said.