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No major metro met service-delivery expectations – index

Municipal consumer satisfaction depends on trust in municipalities to deliver on promises: Ineke Prinsloo, Consulta.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Consulta has released its seventh annual Municipal Citizen Satisfaction Index and, by and large, it’s found that citizens’ satisfaction levels are declining each year, and that their trust in their local municipality’s ability to deliver on services is also diminishing.

Well, earlier I spoke to Ineke Prinsloo, the head of customer insights at Consulta. Thanks very much for joining us, Ineke. In your Citizen Satisfaction Index you note that the expectations of citizens in terms of municipal service delivery and the perceived quality of service received, is actually widening, with citizens having very little trust in their municipalities’ preparedness to fulfil their roles. Perhaps you can tell us more in this regard.

INEKE PRINSLOO: Nompu, always a privilege to talk to you, and thank you very much for the invitation to talk about our fears and satisfaction. In the latest index what we’ve seen is that citizens and the expectations that citizens have of their local governments, and what they actually experience in delivery – that gap is widening.

Now, of course, as to the index on the eight metro municipalities in South Africa, we have been doing this citizen satisfaction index annually since 2012. When you look and see the trend, although there was a slight recovery on the overall index last year, what we do see, and what’s worrisome, is that gap that’s increasing between expectations and actual delivery. I think it’s a little bit of a function of the citizenry wanting their local governments to be accountable, but also the pressure on discretionary income, which is so much more for every cent that we spend.

NOMPU SIZIBA: So what tend to be citizens’ key gripes around local government service delivery?

INEKE PRINSLOO: Nompu, very interesting. If we think about what we want from local government, and the cores of living that we’re looking for as citizens, it’s really around holistic wellbeing, both an economic perspective wellbeing, it’s about environmental and then our human wellbeing perspective. And, most important, it is very, very interesting to see on the index is really the things that are most important, which scored the lowest, are things that talk to the environment. And that’s specifically around garbage removal, waste removal, making sure that our road infrastructure is well managed, and then around clean water – although I do have to say that the municipalities did a lot better than they did two years ago.

And then fourth most important to citizens is really about human wellbeing. So parks and recreation, crafting open spaces where we can get together as a community, and we can have some relaxation. So those are really the top four most important.

We scored a little bit better, as I say, on the water and sanitation, but certainly around garbage and waste removal as well as our road infrastructure that doesn’t work, and which allows me to earn an income. Those were the most important and scored very, very low across the board.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Coalition-run big metros appeared to have fared quite badly in terms of service delivery, especially when you look at cases like Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg and Tshwane, where politics basically seems to have trumped delivery.

INEKE PRINSLOO: What we really do in the index – the purpose of the index is for citizens to mark the scorecard of local municipalities. Some of the municipalities have a lot of measures to really measure themselves and understand whether they are delivering. And I think what the image really shows us is that it’s so important for us as leadership in the local municipalities to be responsive, to listen, and follow the citizens “back to basics”.

The crucible is really about back to basics, and ensuring that as local government we live up to our mandate, just to form the partnerships, create the platforms where we can have constructive dialogue with citizens about what’s important to them.

And that’s what the intent of the index is. And we are starting to see that engagement with all of the municipalities, so to understand that citizens are asking us to be responsive leadership, to make sure that we are seen as doers, and that we are engaging leaders in our local municipalities.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Your survey shows that Cape Town continues to be well rated. What is it that the leadership there is getting right, as opposed to others?

INEKE PRINSLOO:

I think if I do look at the index, we’ve seen that Cape Town did extremely well again on the index, but what is so interesting now are Ekurhuleni and eThekwini.

Ekurhuleni has also been consistently performing well on the things that are important  to citizens. As I said, those things that are back to basics. It’s about the waste removal, it’s about the roads infrastructure, and the clean water and the recreational facilities. Those are the things that both Cape Town and Ekurhuleni have done extremely well on.

Cape Town has done extremely well if we look at trust. Citizens are speaking  positively, and really trusting that we are going to deliver service. We have actually seen a little bit of a downward trend with Cape Town.

So while we are all delivering on the important things for the citizens,  we start seeing a little gap appearing in terms of trusting that there will be consistent delivery in future.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Having said all of that around Cape Town, what’s the City of Cape Town’s record in taking care of areas like the townships and your other less formal settlements?

INEKE PRINSLOO: I think the index, at a holistic level, is really looking at the citizens giving us feedback. And specifically for Cape Town, there are a couple of markers that come out of the Citizen Satisfaction Index that we will need to look at, and specifically around their water and sanitation. Ekurhuleni has done extremely well. But water and sanitation and infrastructure delivery – those are the areas that the City of Cape Town certainly needs to start looking at, because those are the things that we start seeing impacting on that little slide of trust in terms of the citizens expecting more from the city, and making sure that it’s delivering what they’re promising their citizens.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Now, going right across to the other end of the spectrum, Mangaung in the Free State scored the worst in your survey, and it also scored very badly with the Auditor-Generalreports. It appears that people there just do as they please, and that there’s a huge lack of skill in the area of financial management. And of course the ordinary folk are the ones who suffer.

INEKE PRINSLOO: Very interesting, Nompu. If  we look at the Auditor-General’s report.It’s about being custodians, as custodians of both the financial and …… capital that’s being invested into local government. That’s part of the mandate of local government. We have a value exchange between citizens and local government, and we need to be responsible custodians of that investment if we are local government. And certainly, if we start looking at the Auditor-General’s report, it just shows some of those burning platforms in terms of being responsible custodians of …… from citizenry.

And again, the satisfaction benchmark is really citizens marking the scorecard for the local government to look at the things that bother the citizens in terms of what is most important to them.

Last week we saw the DDN development programme, the District Development Programme, that was launched. That’s really about putting the skills into the districts to make sure that there is cooperation. I think that’s a step in the right direction. And I think this is where all of these markers are going to start lining up in terms of citizen satisfaction, in terms of the auditor-general’s report, and engagement with the local governments in terms of doing and spending, being responsible custodians of that investment in us and doing what they should be doing, what citizens are expecting from them.

NOMPU SIZIBA: So, Ineke, with 2020 having been a torrid year, what with its Covid-19, and the  health and socioeconomic implications, and the already apparent dissatisfaction with municipalities and their usefulness or otherwise, can we expect the local elections next year to be highly contested?

INEKE PRINSLOO: Very interesting. A couple of months ago we talked about the community survey that we did as well. We started to track the psyche of consumers, to ask about Covid and the lockdown. And one of the things that we certainly saw is that there is social and economic upheaval, the consumer psyche that’s being changed, and that is back to basics about safety, security, making sure that I can earn an income and  that I can take care of my family and my health. That was one of the findings. We really saw that it’s absolutely about basics. And again, for consumers, we asked them, “What are you going to spend more on while you are so sensitive about every cent, that of discretionary income?”

First of all, in bringing it together, it’s really about the agenda of the citizens, which is back to basics, what’s going to be the most important for citizens going forward is a safe environment where I can live, where I can generate an income and where I can look after my family. And making sure that I expect there is payment for utilities, but that you are a responsible custodian. And certainly the benchmark in the psyche of consumers who are our citizens, that is  going to go forward in helping in how to look at the local municipalities

NOMPU SIZIBA: That was Ineke Prinsloo, the head of customer insights at Consulta.

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