/ SAcsi

Citizen Satisfaction Index remains at an unprecedented low as municipalities fail to deliver on the basics of public service delivery.

The seventh South African Citizen Satisfaction Index (SA-csi) conducted by Consulta shows that citizen satisfaction and trust in their local municipality has remained extremely low with none of the major metros managing to meet their residents expectations of service delivery. Municipalities also record the lowest satisfaction scores by a far margin for all industry sectors tracked by the SA-csi.    

The SA-csi for Municipalities 2020 measures the Citizen Satisfaction and Trust in service delivery in eight category-A municipalities (metropolitan municipalities) as a snapshot - Buffalo City, Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Mangaung, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane. The total sample size was 2427 random interviewees across the metros.  Samples are representative of the general population of metros to ensure the robustness of the survey.

Of the eight metros polled, Cape Town has once again emerged as the best performing metro on the overall Citizen Satisfaction for ‘Large Metros’ recording the highest score for the seventh consecutive year. Cape Town recorded a score of 66.0 out of a possible 100 in the latest index - a two-point improvement on its previous score of 64.1 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.  

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 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 South Africa, as well as any of the indices in the 23 international markets where the model is utilised.

What is notable is that the gap between citizen expectations and perceived quality continues to widen, which means that while citizen expectations are increasing, actual delivery and service 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. 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.    

“Overall, the results show that citizens’ expectations of local government delivery of services are very far from being met with a  particular concern around the trend in the widening of the gap of expectations to quality. A major contributor to the below par performance is the negative perception of reliability of services.  While metropolitan municipalities conduct living standards and lifestyle surveys to assist them plan out their services better, the results of the index points to a greater need to utilise and optimise the data and research to ensure that skills and services are accurately planned and consistently delivered. The significant gaps in expectations versus the perceived quality of service delivery that citizens experience is a telling indicator that there is a pressing need for metros in terms of introspection, finding collaborative initiatives to review service delivery failures and to work consistently to turn the downward trend in the index to improve overall service delivery standards.

“Citizens expectations are increasing, and the index’s year-on-year decline points to an increasing dissatisfaction with the perceived decline in quality in service delivery.  Based on the latest results, the conclusion can be drawn that for citizens in certain metros, service delivery has decreased to levels that is substantially below acceptable benchmarks,” explains Ineke Prinsloo, Head of Customer Insights at Consulta.  

Key findings of the SA Citizen Satisfaction Survey 2020:

·       The overall Citizen Satisfaction level, as an average across all metros, is low at 55.7 - in reality this score indicates that citizen’s satisfaction levels are already low and trust in ability to deliver is severely eroded.  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.  

·       The overall satisfaction score is heavily influenced by the big gaps in the citizen Expectation versus Perceived Quality.  This is the measure of what citizens expect, versus what they actually experience in terms of service delivery.  While the overall expectations index sits at an average of 73.4 and has increased markedly from last year, the actual perceived quality index (what citizens perceive to get) is at 60.5.  

·       This gap between expectations and actual delivery is widening across all metros to varying degrees, however, Buffalo City and Mangaung show disquieting disparities – on this index, Mangaung and Buffalo City show alarming gaps of -26.1 and -20.5 index points between expectations and delivery respectively.

·       In terms of specific problems with service delivery, citizens highlight water supply and management, electricity supply, garbage/refuse removal, unkempt streets and rates and accounts as the key things that citizens are unsatisfied with.

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.  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.

“The results pose an important question on whether service delivery is a priority for numerous municipalities - leadership in local government will have to take stock on these results to justify their existence to its citizenry.  While Metropolitan councils may decentralise powers and functions and services, the accountability for decision making and following through on service delivery vests with the municipal leadership - the findings in the report should serve as warning signs that citizens are not experiencing this at the levels as they are expecting. The Local Government Turnaround Strategy, introduced by government as a blueprint and action plan towards accountable and efficient local governments points to five areas of fast-tracking delivery to citizens. The results bring impetus for municipal management to refocus on this strategy and on what matters most to citizens:  responsive, accountable, effective and efficient local government. It is also interesting to note, that the more dissatisfied citizens are, the higher their expectations become. The reality is that the results 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.  The time has come for local government management to take accountability for their mandated functions and responsibilities,” adds Ineke.

In the latest report delivered by South Africa’s Auditor General, Kimi Makwetu on 1 July 2020, it was revealed that over a three-year period, R4.27bn of local government expenditure was fruitless and wasteful. In total, 91% of the municipalities did not comply with legislation. Makwetu added the lapse in oversight and lack of controls relating to compliance were evident in a number of areas, including supply chain management, adding that compliance with supply chain management legislation had regressed over the past few years, with only 2% of municipalities fully complying. Only 20 municipalities received clean audits, and 13 of them were in the Western Cape. In Gauteng, it was the Midvaal local municipality. The A-G emphasised that Gauteng and Western Cape were the only two provinces that had made progress in looking after their finances and provision of services.

“The results of the 2020 Citizen Satisfaction Index align with the findings of the state of municipalities as highlighted in the A-G’s report.  The results support the extent of the challenges faced by municipalities as highlighted in the A-G report, with the low citizen satisfaction scores reported in SA-csi supporting evidence that there is a lack of appropriate financial and management skills, low level of cooperation in local government, failure to fill key personnel positions as well as a lack of political will to ensure accountability and proper service delivery.  The consequences of the current status quo is reflected in the low scores achieved in the index pointing to a number of A-category municipalities that are unable to deliver to the satisfaction of their citizens on the very basic services such as clean water, sanitation, electricity and maintenance – the very core of their mandate.  

“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.

The report by the A-G supports the argument that municipalities are facing urgent challenges in so far as their income is concerned and with the advent of alternative service providers, it is important for the municipal managers to ensure that services are of a standard that will keep their customers from defecting and resulting in continuous erosion of servicing revenue streams.  Bottom line is – local government is the sphere of government closest to the people. It follows that the focus of local government should be on its people and delivering to what the people need and expect as protected in our constitution. An index like SA-csi serves a purpose in that it provides local government with a scorecard that is marked by the voice of their citizenry. The index over the recent past has been tracking in the wrong direction with the gap between quality and expectations increasing by an average of four index points over the past two years. The core value exchange relationship between citizens and local government is centred in citizen’s financial and electorate investment in municipal management, in exchange for delivery to basic needs and being accountable for spending support and financial capital wisely and responsibly. The latest SA-csi result is another negative narrative alongside a number of other indicators pointing to an urgent need for all role players to take decisive action to change the numbers on the scoreboard,” concludes Ineke.

Of the almost 20 industry sectors polled by the SA-csi, the municipalities category has consistently fared the poorest since the inception of the index, with the lowest satisfaction scores across all sectors - and which have remained on a downward trajectory year-on-year.