'Could do so much better': SA's dismal verdict on malfunctioning municipalities

12 September 2020 - 16:18 By Philani Nombembe
Auditor-general Kimi Makwetu's recent report revealed that over a three-year period, R4.27bn of local government expenditure was fruitless and wasteful.
Auditor-general Kimi Makwetu's recent report revealed that over a three-year period, R4.27bn of local government expenditure was fruitless and wasteful.

South Africans’ satisfaction with local government, and trust in its ability to meet their expectations, continues to plummet.

Residents are mostly unhappy about water supply and management, electricity supply, garbage and refuse removal, unkempt streets and billing issues.

The seventh SA Citizen Satisfaction Index (SA-csi) released by Consulta, a market research company, shows that contentment and faith are “extremely low” among citizens as municipalities fail to deliver basic services.

The index also shows that none of the major metropolitan municipalities is meeting its residents’ service delivery expectations. Buffalo City and Mangaung metros have shown an alarming decline in this year’s index.

The SA-csi for Municipalities 2020 polled residents of Buffalo City, Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Mangaung, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane.

Cape Town emerged as the best performing large metro on overall citizen satisfaction, recording a score of 66%, two points higher than in 2019.

“It is also more than 10 points above the par score of 55.7 for all municipalities and well ahead of all other metros,” said Ineke Prinsloo, Consulta’s head of customer insights.

“Ekurhuleni follows, also in a leader position, with a score of 58.4 and an improvement of 1.7 on its previous score.

“Ethekwini and Tshwane are on par with scores of 57.2 and 53.6 respectively, while the City of Johannesburg (51.4), Nelson Mandela Bay (49.8), Buffalo City (46.5) and Mangaung (38.9) come in below par.

“Nelson Mandela Bay has seen a sharp and steady decline in citizen satisfaction scores since 2018 when it reached a high of 61.9.

“Mangaung’s scores declined to the lowest scores recorded on the index in SA, as well as any of the indices in the 23 international markets where the model is utilised.”

The study found that while citizens’ expectations increased, “actual delivery and quality are declining”.

“Cape Town has the smallest gap (-5.5) between what citizens expect and what they perceive in terms of actual delivery, which means that Cape Town is closest to delivering the basic services of a local government to what their citizens would expect,” said Prinsloo.

“All other metros’ scores reflect substantial lapses between expectations and actual perceived quality of service delivery, with Buffalo City (-20.5) and Mangaung (-26.1) performing very poorly on this metric.”

According to Prinsloo, service delivery has decreased to “levels substantially below acceptable benchmarks” in certain metros. The key findings of the survey reveal that the overall citizen satisfaction across all metros averages 55.7.

“Even at this low base, citizen satisfaction levels are nowhere near being met in certain metros like Mangaung, Buffalo City, Nelson Mandela Bay and City of Johannesburg,” said Prinsloo.   

“When you look at what the drivers are behind satisfaction levels, citizen mentions mostly related to basics that underpin the very existence of a municipality — water supply and management, electricity supply, garbage/refuse disposal, road maintenance, clean streets and suburbs, and reliable billing/accounts.

“These are the very fundamentals of why local governments exist, yet these are the areas that citizens most flag as their pain points.”

Prinsloo said the results beg the question of whether service delivery is a priority for most municipalities.

“Leadership in local government will have to take stock of these results to justify their existence to citizenry,” said Prinsloo.

In his latest report, auditor-general Kimi Makwetu revealed that R4.27bn of local government expenditure over the past three years was fruitless and wasteful and 91% of the municipalities did not adhere to legislation.  

“The results of the 2020 Citizen Satisfaction Index align with the findings of the state of municipalities as highlighted in the AG’s report,” said Prinsloo.

“There is a lack of appropriate financial and management skills, low level of co-operation in local government, failure to fill key personnel positions as well as a lack of political will to ensure accountability and proper service delivery.    

“Citizen trust in the ability of municipalities to deliver to expectations shows a continued sharp decline year on year and should be cause for significant concern and intervention.

“It is notable that when you look at the sentiment analysis in the latest SA-csi index, with the exception of Cape Town, sentiment on every single measure is negative on the level of service experienced by citizens.”