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Citizen Satisfaction Index Shows Sharp Decline in Citizen Trust Across SA’s Largest Metropolitan Municipalities

The sixth South African Citizen Satisfaction Index (SA-csi) conducted by Consulta shows that citizen satisfaction and trust in municipal service delivery is at its lowest ebb since the inception of the Index in 2014.

SA-csi 2019 measures the Citizen Satisfaction and Trust in service delivery in eight Metropolitan municipalities as a snapshot - Buffalo City, Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Mangaung, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane. The total sample size was 2506 random interviewees across the metros, representative of the resident demographics in each metro. The sample exceeded both the minimum required sample size as well as the 2018 sample size.  

Of the eight metros polled, Cape Town has once again emerged as the Category leader on overall Citizen Satisfaction for Large Metros for the sixth consecutive year, at 64.1 out of a possible 100. This is a definitive 10.1 index point score above the average satisfaction score of 54 and leading well ahead of all other Metros.

Ekurhuleni and eThekwini follow with scores on par to industry average, with 55.7 and 55.5 respectively, followed by Tshwane at 51.3, Nelson Mandela Bay at 50.5 and Johannesburg with 49.9, all coming in below par. Buffalo City ‘s 43.4 and Mangaung, with 40.5 come in dramatically below par, and thus performed at 10.6 and 13.5 index points below industry average respectively.  Notably, Nelson Mandela Bay showed a dramatic decline of 11.4 index points in overall satisfaction compared with its previous year’s score of 61.9 - this could be the impact of leadership upheaval which beset the metro during 2018, and which impacted citizen expectations and trust in ability to deliver services. Mangaung has recorded the lowest satisfaction score in the history of the Citizen Satisfaction Index for the second consecutive year, declining even further on its previous year’s score.

To classify the citizen perception of performance of their municipalities into the categories “Leader, On Par or Below Par”, Consulta compares the scores to establish verifiable, statistical significance.

Cape Town remains the undisputed leader in terms of satisfaction scores year on year, albeit with a marginal drop of 1.1 index points compared with 2018.  What is notable is that the gap between Cape Town and all other metros continues to widen. Cape Town also has the smallest gap between what citizens expect and what they perceive in terms of actual delivery.  

“Overall, the results show that expectations are very far from being met, and that there are significant gaps in expectations versus the perceived quality of service delivery that citizens experience.  The delivery gap between what citizens expect and what they perceive has also widened compared with the previous year’s results, while comparisons with 2015 results show a chasm in the decline.  In this year’s results, all metros experienced a drop in overall scores, with some metros showing massive decline and deterioration in citizen satisfaction,” explains Professor Adré Schreuder, SA-csi Founder and Chairperson.  

Key findings of the SA Citizen Satisfaction Survey 2019:

·         The overall Citizen Satisfaction level, as an average across all metros, has declined to its lowest level yet at 54 in 2019, compared with 61.9 in 2015. All municipalities have produced a lower performance from last year and not a single metro has shown improvement. In reality. a score of 54 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.  

·         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 69.9 and has increased from last year, the actual perceived quality index (what citizens perceive to get) is at 58.  

·         This gap between expectations and actual delivery is widening across all metros to varying degrees, however Buffalo City and Mangaung show shocking disparities – on this index Mangaung and Buffalo City show disturbing gaps of -22.2 and -23 index points between expectations and delivery respectively.

·         In terms of specific problems with service delivery, citizens highlight water supply and management, as well as handling of water-related complaints as the bulk of mentions at 34%. This is followed by electricity at 13%, rates and accounts at 8%, water billing at 7% and messy street at 6%. This tells us that citizens are unsatisfied with both service delivery aspects, as well as the behaviour of municipality representatives in how issues are handled and addressed.

“When you look at what the drivers are behind satisfaction levels, citizen mentions mostly related to basics such as water supply and management, electricity supply, garbage disposal, road maintenance and clean streets as the basics of what citizens expect from their local municipality, and fundamentally why local governments exist, yet these are the areas that citizens most flag as their pain points.  It is clear from the SA-csi results that in certain municipalities, service delivery is not the priority for the municipality, or that there are constraints in key areas that need to be addressed more effectively.  Municipal leadership would do well to realise that service delivery is what matters most to citizens and that citizens want their lives to be enhanced and improved through the services that municipalities are required to provide,” adds Prof Schreuder.

In a shocking report delivered by South Africa’s Auditor General, Kimi Makwetu, in May last year, it was revealed that most of South Africa’s 257 municipalities are in a disastrous financial position – in fact only 33 (13%) are in full compliance with the relevant legal requirements, and produced quality financial statements and performance reports, while a third (31%) of all Municipalities are not financially viable.  The Auditor General ascribed the dire situation to a range of factors including lack of appropriate financial and management skills, political interference and infighting in councils, failure to fill key personnel positions as well as a lack of political will to ensure accountability.

“The consequences of the current status quo is that municipalities are unable to deliver basic services such as clean water, sanitation, electricity and maintenance. This leads to collapse of infrastructure and right now, the explosion of service delivery protests across the country are evidence of the people’s frustration with a failure to provide basic services required by the citizenry.  Citizens are entitled to receive good quality services from their respective municipalities – this snapshot of just eight major metropolitan municipalities shows there is a growing inability of local governments to deliver what they are supposed to and that in some metros, citizen satisfaction is at an all-time low, and potentially on a knife-edge,” says Prof Schreuder.

As South Africans prepare to head to the polls on 8 May, 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 will be fascinating to see how citizen satisfaction levels with local service delivery impacts voter choice.

“It has become time for Government and the Public sector to be held accountable by the citizens they are supposed to serve and the SA Citizen Satisfaction Index is an ideal methodology to provide an internationally recognised and credible rating model.  It has been shown that transparency and accountability always lead to significant improvement and ultimately investor confidence and improved trust in the public sector,” concludes Prof Schreuder.

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.

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About the South African Customer Satisfaction Index

As a strategic tool for gauging the competitiveness of individual firms and organisations and predicting future profitability, an organisation’s customer satisfaction performance, as measured by the SA-csi methodology, provides a predictive indication of how well the firm will perform in terms of future revenue and earnings growth.  Supported by both the scientific and practitioner community, the SA-csi is the first independent, comprehensive national customer satisfaction index with international comparability in South Africa and has collected data from more than 400 000 consumers since its inception in 2012. The SA-csi forms part of a global network of research groups, quality associations and universities that have adopted the methodology of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) via its Global CSISM program.