“Towards Accelerating Service Delivery”
Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
NCOP BUDGET VOTE DEBATE
8 June 2011
In different ways, most of us, across political parties, are saying that the local government elections we’ve just had are seminal. More than any other elections in our country, they signal the urgent need to significantly improve service delivery and development.
There has, indeed, been significant delivery. Certainly, more than is made out in the public discourse, even if less than there should be. We all agree, not least the ANC, that we need to do better. So what do we do? This input will focus merely on some things we could do. It is by no means comprehensive. And many of the issues raised will need to be processed further. Some will require substantial consensus.
Overall, we have done well, considering the magnitude of the challenges. So we have a good base from which to accelerate service delivery. But there has to be a new thrust to delivering services following these elections. This will have to have immediate, short-term and long-term aspects. And there has to be effective inter-connections between these different aspects.
Perhaps what we need most immediately is a better sense of what we have, in fact, delivered. We have the statistics of delivery. That deals with quantity. But we also need to consider the quality, consistency and durability of the services. Minister Nathi Mthethwa also, last week, raised the issue of looking at the quality of the services provided. And Minister Tokyo Sexwale has also been reviewing the quality of the houses we have provided since 1994.
The respective departments dealing with services, such as water, sanitation and electricity set their own norms and standards of what constitutes a “basic” service. There is a need for greater measure of consistency across departments on these norms and standards. These norms and standards also have to be reviewed over time.
We need a better sense of what we have delivered so that we have better sense of what we still have to deliver.
The population census to be done in October this year will be valuable in getting a more accurate picture of our population size, age and geographical distribution.
But we must be clear at the outset. The responsibility to accelerate service delivery does not rest with local government alone. Nor with CoGTA (Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Ministry). All three spheres of government, other organs of state and state-owned enterprises need to work much more closely together to accelerate service delivery. But the public too has a crucial role. We need a massive cooperative effort involving all stakeholders and the public to ensure improved and sustainable service delivery.
Consolidating and strengthening the LGTAS (Local Government Turnaround Strategy) overall is important to accelerating service delivery. Over the next few months CoGTA, together with our partners, is to place major focus on giving a new thrust to the LGTAS. We need to improve the quality of the MTAS (Municipal Turnaround Strategies) shaped in terms of the LGTAS, including through the more active participation of the residents of municipalities. Greater stress has to be placed on the MTAS prioritising access to basic services.
We need parliament, not least the NCOP, to play your full role in this regard, but also to continuously monitor the progress of the LGTAS and hold us strenuously to account. Of course, key aspects of the LGTAS are now incorporated into the Outcome 9 Performance Agreement the CoGTA Minister signed with the President, and you will, of course, regularly call on us to account on progress as part of your oversight role.
To deliver services better, we need a far more integrated relationship between IDPs (Integrated Development Plans), budgets and service delivery plans, programmes and targets. This also means a better alignment of MIG (Municipal Infrastructure Grant) and human settlement grants. And a better alignment too of bulk infrastructure and reticulation plans. What, for example, is the value of having access to a tap but no water?
There also needs to be far effective oversight by municipalities of municipal entities and public utilities.
Many of our difficulties in speeding up service delivery revolve around two major issues – capacity and resources. The two are related. If we had capacity, we could make more effective use of our limited resources. And if we had more resources, we could spend more on developing capacity.
What about capacity? What can we do about improving this? We need, in the first place, to rationalize the many local government capacity-building programmes that are run by different departments, SALGA (South African Local Government Association), ILGM (Institute of Local Government Management), IMFO (Institute of Municipal Finance Officers), Local government SETA and other organisations. The main focus should be on good governance and improved service delivery. CoGTA has begun a process with National Treasury to rationalize local government capacity-building programmes. This process needs to be speeded up.
Importantly, the LG SETA needs to be far more active and effective than it currently is. Both CoGTA and parliament need to put far more pressure on the SETA do more and be more effective.
There is also a need to find the necessary planning, engineering, electrical, project management, financial management and other skills. The universities and other tertiary institutions, the state-owned enterprises and other relevant organisations need to play a more effective role in this regard. CoGTA is to meet the Department of Higher Education and Training on 24 June to take this forward.
CoGTA is also in the final stages of setting up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA), to accelerate municipal infrastructure delivery. Particular attention will be paid to the weaker municipalities.
The SPV would aim to:
• Support comprehensive infrastructure planning at municipal level
• Support municipal infrastructure development, maintenance, operations and service provision in low capacity municipalities through the procurement of relevant service providers, and ensuring performance as contracted
• Support the management of operations and ensuring a proper maintenance programme for municipal infrastructure
• Coordinate a focused technical support programme with existing support partners
• Monitor the quality of infrastructure provided
• Develop and coordinate the implementation of an appropriate sector-wide capacity development initiative and assist municipalities to develop a capacity development plan to strengthen their institutions over the long term
A fundamental focus will be on the effective maintenance, repair and operation of infrastructure, as this has been a major failing until now. Service delivery has often been compromised by this.
In view of the pending establishment of the SPV, funding for the infrastructure component of the Siyenza Manje project currently run by DBSA (Development Bank of Southern Africa) has been transferred to CoGTA, while funding for financial management support will be administered by National Treasury. A Task Team comprising senior officials from CoGTA, DBSA and National Treasury are working on ensuring a smooth transfer of aspects of the project. If necessary, this will take place in a phased manner.
Consideration is also being given to the establishment of a Bulk Infrastructure Grant. This is part of output 2 of the Outcome 9 Performance Agreement the CoGTA Minister. The following is noted in the agreement: “consideration must be given to the establishment of a Bulk Infrastructure Fund to unlock delivery of reticulation services, fund bulk infrastructure, procure well located land, align Provincial Infrastructure Grants and Municipal Infrastructure Grants with housing projects and grants and to upgrade and rehabilitate bulk infrastructure (such as waste water treatment works).” CoGTA is still in the early stages of considering this.
And what about funding? As raised in the Budget Vote Debate in the National Assembly last week, CoGTA is working with National Treasury and other stakeholders to review the financial model of local government. This includes a review of the intergovernmental fiscal system with the aim of increasing the share of the national budget allocated to local government. An important part of any increase to local government has to be directed at both building capacity and delivering basic services on a sustainable basis to more people. It’s no use allocating more money if municipalities do not have the capacity to effectively spend it. Last year municipalities were unable to spend 17,1% of their capital budget. So to ensure full use of the expanded funds, it’s crucial that national and provincial government assist municipalities to develop the necessary capacity.
What about community participation? To improve service delivery, municipalities have to ensure the active participation of communities. CoGTA’s proposals as part of output 5 of outcome 9 on strengthening ward committees and community participation in general would, if agreed on and effectively implemented, assist greatly in this regard. If communities are more involved in local government they are more likely to have an understanding of the possibilities and limits of service delivery and take greater responsibility for both the achievements and the failures of delivery. They are more likely, in other words, to have a sense of ownership of the programmes of a municipality.
Community involvement in service delivery and local government generally can be very challenging. But municipalities have to take communities more seriously, and as difficult as it can sometimes be, reach out to the leaders of community protests. Municipalities have to respond to community protests more creatively and effectively. Community protests are important in a vibrant democracy, and can serve to put pressure on municipalities to speed up service delivery. But if they are violent and include destruction of municipal offices, community halls, libraries, schools, clinics and other buildings, they undermine service delivery and development. Whatever the challenges, responding appropriately to community protests is important in stabilizing and improving service delivery.
To improve service delivery we also need the public to use scarce resources like water and electricity more sparingly and avoid waste. As CoGTA and parliament we need, for example, to support Eskom’s demand side management campaigns more actively. In our constituency and political work as MPs we need to constantly make people whom we come into contact with aware of the need to save electricity and water.
Municipalities also need to act far more decisively on water leakages, for example. And they also need to ensure that councilors and administrators use electricity sparingly.
To another matter. Although the legislation passed since 1994 has been very oriented to service delivery and development, aspects of it have had the unintended consequence of serving to impede service delivery. Mandated by the President, CoGTA is spearheading a process, involving 10 national departments, the provinces and SALGA, to review aspects of legislation that serve to impede service delivery. , Among other restraints, the relevant legislative provisions are administratively burdensome, make consultation with stakeholders inordinately time-consuming and bureaucratic, provide for approval from structures that don’t have the capacity and resources to process issues within reasonable timeframes. Many of the provisions also substantially overlap making for duplication. Others contradict each other.
The Interdepartmental Committee working on this project has so far identified more than 350 provisions in 30 pieces of legislation that have the unintended consequence of serving to impede service delivery. The relevant departments have been approached to begin addressing the anomalies. The key legislation being prioritised involves housing, land use management, and the prevention of illegal evictions.
It’s crucial that we don’t just deliver more and better, but that we also transform the municipal landscape. We shouldn’t just chase statistics, as important as they are. We have to also ensure that the services are not delivered top-down but involve communities as far as possible. They also have to be of the necessary quality and they must be sustainable. Improving service delivery is ultimately also about transforming the society we live in.
Many of the issues raised here, and many others not even raised, need to be taken further and concretised. To the extent there is consensus on these issues we need to discuss further how do we do the things we agree on and how do we do them fast?
As CoGTA, as part of fulfilling output 2 of outcome 9 we are discussing these issues within our ranks and with other departments. We are keen to hear your views and would welcome a sitting of the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Select Committee soon that focuses on how we accelerate service delivery and work together on this.
As I conclude, I’d like to express our appreciation to the Select Committee and its Chairperson, Mr Humphry Mokgobi. I know this is unusual, but these are unusual circumstances – I want to also express our appreciation to Acting Minister Mthethwa for his stewardship of the Department. His not a Hollywood or Bollywood or Nollywood acting performance – he’s been very hands-on. And he shows a flair for local government issues that those of us more experienced in this portfolio are constantly surprised by.
Finally, CoGTA noted your report on your 6 to 10 September 2010 provincial week as well as the report of the parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee on service delivery. CoGTA has taken up the issues raised in these reports. MinMec considered the Ad Hoc Committee Report and it’s also been referred to the provinces to act on. There is considerable synergy between what the parliamentary committees and CoGTA identify as the challenges and the responses. We need though to act more decisively and faster and bring in other stakeholders and the public more actively. Ultimately, we’re all in this together – government, parliament, other components of the state and the people. We need a massive cooperative World Cup effort to accelerate service delivery and development! We did it in 2010! We can do it again!