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Do you feel your municipality is useless?

You are not alone – everybody thinks municipalities are getting worse.
The 10-point decline in citizen expectations in a 12-month period is ‘a significant red flag’. Image: Moneyweb

A recent survey by Consulta shows that people believe that municipalities are getting worse at delivering basic services. Its South African Citizen Satisfaction Index (SA-csi), the eighth time Consulta has done this annual survey, has dropped to its lowest level since the index’s inception.

The research house polled eight metropolitan municipalities earlier this year, and the results show that they are falling far short of meeting the expectations of residents and ratepayers.

“The results are a direct reflection of the dire picture painted by numerous auditor-general and media reports of the dysfunctional state of many municipalities across the country,” says Natasha Doren, senior consultant at Consulta.

“The bottom line is that local government is the sphere of government closest to the people. It follows that the focus of local government should be on its citizens and delivering what the people need and expect as protected [by] our constitution.

“The latest SA-csi result is another negative narrative alongside several other indicators pointing to an urgent need for all role players to take decisive action to change the trajectory of local government failures and outright catastrophes,” says Doren.

The SA-csi for municipalities measures people’s satisfaction and trust in service delivery, with the eight ‘Category A’ municipalities being: Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni in Gauteng; Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape; Cape Town in the Western Cape; eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal; and Mangaung in the Free State.

A total of 2 537 residents of these metros were polled online and by telephone during the last few months.

Even the best has slipped

Cape Town emerged as the overall leader for the fifth consecutive year, achieving a score of 61.9 out of a possible 100 – although the Mother City’s score has dropped from the 66 it achieved in 2020.

Nevertheless, Cape Town is well ahead of all the other metros and more than 10 points above the score of 51.1 for all municipalities. The Consulta report notes that most municipalities performed worse than in previous years, according to opinions voiced by residents.

“Municipalities recorded the lowest satisfaction scores by a far margin for all industry sectors tracked by the SA-csi and Consulta,” says Doren.

“The results show that citizens’ expectations of local government delivery of services are very far from being met. The 10-point decline in citizen expectations compared with 2020 is a significant red flag.

“Lower expectations are typically the driver of drops in all other metrics of citizen satisfaction, including overall quality, meeting residents’ needs and reliability. Overall, the below-par [below-average] performance is driven by widely held negative perception of reliability of services, many of which are teetering on or have collapsed in many local councils,” she adds.

Residents in metropolitan areas believe that municipalities are unable to perform their basic tasks – the tasks that underpin a municipality’s very existence – such as water supply and management, electricity supply, garbage and refuse disposal, road maintenance, clean streets and suburbs, and reliable billing.

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“These are the fundamentals of why local governments exist, yet these are the areas that citizens most flag as their pain points. Local government structures are the only sphere of government in South Africa where our constitution stipulates a clear mandate: a functional body that ensures that citizens are provided with quality transport and roads; adequate spatial planning and housing; economic opportunities and development; essential services ranging from utilities to fire services, as well as recreation and an environment to work, live and thrive in,” says Doren.

“For millions of citizens, this mandate is nowhere close to being realised.”

The Consulta reports notes that the 2021 research indicates that local government is running out of road.

Will citizens use their vote to voice their dissatisfaction?

“As citizens get ready to head to the polls for local municipal elections … on 1 November, there is every expectation that the growing levels of citizen dissatisfaction will manifest in their votes, or lack thereof. The reality is that service delivery has decreased to substantially below acceptable benchmarks in any industry or sector,” according to the report.

It refers to Mangaung’s rapid decline as an example, saying it “represents catastrophic levels in citizen satisfaction by any measure”.

Read: Two municipalities, both ANC-run, tell the story of where it all went wrong

“The reality is that if the satisfaction scores across all metros were present in any private sector, such entities would not exist in any shape or format in a competitive market environment where consumers, or citizens, have freedom of choice,” says Doren.

It is impossible to disagree with Doren. My personal experience has shown that residents are also to blame for the trajectory of municipalities – by voting for useless local representatives in the local elections (happening within days).

Illiterate councillors

During my five-year stint as a ward councillor, several of the serving councillors were illiterate and thus unable to read the agendas and items therein that required council approval.

Yet these councillors had to authorise – or could veto – plans put forward by professional and experienced council officials, such as intricate budget proposals presented by a team of accountants or huge engineering projects tailored by engineers to ensure long term water supply.

The result is that money was often diverted to social spending.

Facts and figures were routinely ignored and important decisions were driven by emotions and political alliances in a council that was, at the time, ruled by a coalition of four different parties.

A story from back then illustrates the inefficiency of decision making in a political environment: Councillors once voted to force the civil engineering department to reduce the diameter of a new main water line to save money, despite the pleadings of the team of qualified engineers and their decades’ worth of experience.

Key findings

The Consulta poll shows that citizens’ satisfaction levels are exceptionally low and that trust in municipalities’ ability to deliver is severely eroded. The report notes that all metros showed a decline in overall citizen satisfaction compared with 2020, except Nelson Mandela Bay, which showed a marginal improvement of 0.7 index points in its score.

The only metro performing above and significantly ahead of par is Cape Town at nearly 62 points. Ekurhuleni is on par at 52.2 but declined by a significant 6.2 points on its 2020 score. Nelson Mandela Bay (50.5) and eThekwini (50.1), and Tshwane (50) are also on par, while City of Johannesburg (47.2), Buffalo City (44) and Mangaung (32.6) come in well below par.

Mangaung, already on a very low satisfaction score in 2020, decreased a further 6.3 index points to only 32.6, the lowest score recorded across all sectors in SA. It is also the lowest score in the world among the 23 international markets where the research model is used.

Mangaung shows a marked and rapid decline over a five-year period from 51.3 in 2017.

Expectation versus actual experience

The different areas measured by the poll all showed deterioration. The overall satisfaction score is heavily influenced by the significant gaps in citizens’ Expectation versus Perceived Quality, which measures what citizens expect versus what they actually experience in terms of service delivery.

The overall expectations index has declined by an alarming 10 index points to 63.2, from a par of 73.4 in 2020, signalling a worrying breakdown in citizens’ trust in their metro’s ability to deliver services, according to the report.

“What is notable is that the gap between citizen expectations and perceived quality remains wide, even though citizen expectations have actually declined,” says Doren.

“Essentially it means that most metros are not meeting their citizen expectations even off a significantly lower base.”

The report concludes that residents have actually given up on expecting anything better from their metros.

City of Johannesburg (-9.2), eThekwini (-10.3), Tshwane (-11.3) and Mangaung (-15.9) reflect substantial lapses between expectations and actual perceived quality of service delivery.

Residents’ evaluation of detailed service quality – including aspects such as refuse removal, maintenance of and the building of new roads, keeping parks neat and tidy, providing clean drinking water, and access to electricity, sewage, storm water drainage and street lighting – shows that Cape Town is the only metro that delivers on every one of these measures at margins significantly above par.

Mangaung performs well below par, with citizens indicating that service delivery has collapsed.

Complaint incidence and handling

Consulta also asked respondents about their experience relating to the handling of complaints. Once again, Mangaung has the lowest complaint handling score of 21.9, well below the par score of 35.7 and a high complaint incidence of 53.9 which indicates that citizen complaints remain largely unresolved.

eThekwini has the highest complaint incidence rate (nearly 58%), followed by Tshwane (55%), Mangaung (54%), Ekurhuleni (52.3%), Cape Town (48%), Johannesburg (47.4%), Buffalo City (41%) and Nelson Mandela Bay (34.4%) with the lowest incidence rate.

Buffalo City has the best complaint handling score (48.1) followed by Cape Town (44) and Ekurhuleni (38.1), Nelson Mandela Bay (37.9) and Tshwane (36.6).

eThekwini (32.6), Johannesburg (28.6) and Mangaung (21.9) all perform below par on complaint handling.

In terms of citizens’ top-of-mind mentions or complaints, water supply is the leading issue for all citizen complaints, followed by electricity supply and refuse removal.

Trust

Another measure, Citizen Trust, has declined to its lowest point since the index’s inception, dropping to a par of 53.6 in 2021, from 60.7 in 2020 and just below 65 in 2017.

Residents still trust the Cape Town metro (trust index at 65.1 is almost 12 index points above par and at least 10 index points ahead of other metros), while Mangaung comes in last again with a score of only 38.4 out of 100.

“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. The results pose an important question on whether service delivery is a priority for numerous municipalities and whether they can justify their existence to its citizens,” says Doren.

She adds that the research has shown that citizens want responsive, accountable, effective and efficient local government.

“The results of this index point to a growing dissatisfaction over the past couple of years of a decreasing trend in value for money on service delivery that citizens fund through payment of utility accounts, rates and taxes.

Read: Proposed new taxes to help dysfunctional municipalities

“The time has come for local government management to take accountability for their mandated functions and responsibilities or face the growing defection of residents and businesses from dysfunctional municipalities to [better-run] councils, resulting in continuous erosion of servicing revenue streams – all of this has massive implications for local economies.”

Listen: Consulta Senior Consultant Natasha Doren on trust in local municipalities dropping to a five-year low:

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Only 2537 people were polled? And based on that poll al these conclusions are made?

Yes, that’s how ALL such polls work.

ChrisStoffel, earlier this week you made the comment that MBA graduates ‘don’t know that water flows downwards’. I must tell you that one of the subjects MBA graduates have to master, is STATISTICS. Judging by your comment, you clearly don’t understand Statistics. Therefore, MBA graduates may be able to add some value after all, don’t you think?

What percentage of the population was poled? This is not ‘statistics’. This is not even an opinion poll. This is only to write an article.

We do not need questionaires for this question at all.

Municipalities? do they still exist?

The old foreman positions probably get paid more than the bank managers while they do not know how to replace a street lamp.

Traffic lights are not working most of the time while they decide who gets the tender.

While no municipalities did well, I’m not surprised Cape Town rated poorly at 61.9/100.

In Cape Town, the municipality has taken care of the suburbs, but they have neglected the townships. There is an unequal distribution of service delivery.

You appear to have forgotten that the suburbs especially leafy are the ones that pay for the services ,incl for those suburbs who don’t pay : If services stop in the “suburbs” the municipality will be able to service nothing at all.
I have had excellent service in a leafy suburb ,hence I and my neighbours pay ,even realising we are subsidising the EFF etc hangers on .(and despite that we have never had streetlights in our suburb ).Vote in an ANC or EFF municipality and the suburbs will stop paying as well and run around singing Amandla or we are suffering :

You cannot convince the EFF about this. Remember that money doesn’t exist in a communist structure, therefore there isn’t a concept that some people pay for housing and others don’t. Everyone gets their allocation and we all praise the Great Leader. There is no common ground between communism and capitalism and speaking about people paying for services or not is a foreign concept to them.

Hey Robert from Sydney, how are the municipalities in Australia doing?

They are probably better than ours?

Because they PAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Check to program on ETV at 14h00 call Checkpoint!

Useless applies to EVERY municipality in KZN !!!

Not just KZN. I recently took a trip from Benoni to the South Coast. I wanted to go off the main routes so went via Standerton, Volksrust, Newcastle, Dundee, Tugela Ferry, Greytown, PMB.

It was a real shocker. What has happened to this once beautiful Country of ours made me cry.

It’s not just Jacob Zuma, the ANC is wholly to blame for the demise of a once beautiful country.

That was brave. Just getting through Standerton without ruining your tyres and/or suspension or having a crash trying to avoid the potholes would have been a challenge.
Don’t do that again!!

TaffyDee, I also tried the same alternative route through, but my battle tank “threw its track” on those gravel tracks with occasional sections of tar 😉 Better to travel straight through veld it seems.

What happened to our once beautiful country, you ask? As punishment for all these towns’ decay, the ANC rename them fittingly.

I have dozens of billing complaints with the City of Joburg and not one has been fixed. Not one.

Their complaints system is to give you a reference number and then totally ignore your objection.

Like the police who give you a case number and then do zero.

And their billing system is to suck their thumbs and bill 10 times any rational usage because they want the money.

And the day a lockdown ends, they think the economy just snaps back to pre-lockdown levels in an instant.

Great people to do business with

I know exactly how you feel. We took over the management 13 properties in JHB in 2011 and to this day not all the original or subsequent problems have been resolved. Rates charged on incorrect stands, duplicated charges, water meters disconnecteed but still being charged for 3 years on, same water meter being used to charged for service to different stands, etc etc. All you get is an automated response and ZIP else.

Any Municipality run by the ANC or EFF is doomed. They are and will forever be doomed. Municipalities that were once well administered are a disaster under the ANC. Period! Case closed!!

Vote DA!!!!!!

I don’t like it but I fully agree. The DA is the only party with a decent track record of managing municipalities. The ANC has no record because they are not managing anything – only stealing…

“Robert from Sydney” will probably disagree with you

One of our local councillors has called for a meeting with residents to discuss matters of concern – a couple of days before elections! We hear nothing from this person throughout the whole year, and now all of a sudden they’re all ears!

You can fool some people some of the time, and you can even fool some people all of the time, but you cannot fool all people all of the time.

Ja they try to show some customer care one day before the elections and then get paid millions for four years.

SA’s populace must represent the height of stupidity. For they’ll protest, lamenting their grievances and desperate for an alleviation of their hardships. Only to go to the polls weeks thereafter to vote for those candidates who represent the very same organization against which they were protesting in the first place.

Talk about digging your own grave!

because they’re so poor they never received any services to begin with, therefore the deterioration is less noticeable. They’d rather vote for someone with promises. The problem we have is that the middle class/taxpayers is too small and shrinking.

not only are they used to their situation but extremely happy with it so it seems. Evolution not part of their concept!

There is a correlation between the ANC running a municipality and the level of dysfunctionality of a municipality being high.

The ANC is the problem and its corruption, cadre deployment and mismanagement.

The chief technical manager in Garies maintains that he is a civil engineer. With the water supply problems we have experienced for months, Mr. Engineer wants to install a 10Kl water tank on a brick platform approx. 400mm above ground level in a certain area.

I asked Mr. Engineer if he understands Bernoulli’s principle and was told that I am insulting him.

We are in deep k*k.

It time allows, check the program on ETV at 14h00 called Checkpoint, a repeat from last night, words fail ………

Tks. Reminder set.

Maybe he is the inventor of the perpetual motion machine

YES! Kroonstad’s municipality is FUBAR!

Then ANC-controlled Klerksdorp must surely following Kroonstad’s lead down the abyss.

City of Matlosana following City of Moqhaka into the ditch.

Come the next generation, South Africa will be a insignificant and forgotten rumour.

Back to Bush standards we go, but paying First World prices for it!

Make city and town counsellor positions honorary again, as it was pre-94.

You improve service delivery, save on salaries and even cut out the political deaths.

3 guys this morning (at 5:45 nogal) are sweeping the pavement clean right in front of the municipality. Sounds like a joke, but it’s not. Turns out someone important oke from the government was going to be paying us a little visit.
Take a drive around town though, and (save for a few suburbs) you will see garbage and filth (they mean the same but I’m just trying to give you guys visuals by wording) all over the place as if we are living in the land of doom.
What on earth are we paying rates and taxes for??? Plain and simply, us residents are taken for idiots.

What we are experiencing here is a spectacular failure of democracy. We have an opportunity on Monday to show the world whether we can do it right or not.

The country is facing a bigger crisis today than the one that forced the cabal to jettison Jacob Zuma, it’s that simple. The only thing that could be worse is a coup d’ètat. This leaves us in my view with only one last option if there is no change for the better after Monday’s election, a tax boycott to force those in power to curtail their excesses and do their constitutional duties.

End of comments.

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