Citizen Satisfaction Index drops to 5-year low as municipalities fail to deliver on the fundamentals of service delivery
Consulta's 8th South African Citizen Satisfaction Index (SA-csi) shows that Citizen Satisfaction and trust in local municipalities to deliver basic services has dropped to its lowest ebb since the index's inception. Of the eight metropolitan municipalities polled in the Citizen Satisfaction Index in 2021, it is clear that they are falling far short of meeting citizen's expectations, with the results being 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.
The SA-csi for Municipalities 2021 measures the Citizen Satisfaction and trust in service delivery in eight category-A municipalities ('metros') as a snapshot - Buffalo City, Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Mangaung, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane. The total sample size was 2 537, and interviews were conducted online and telephonically during Q3 of 2021 across the metros.
In the 2021 Citizen Satisfaction Index, Cape Town again emerges as the leader on overall Citizen Satisfaction for the fifth consecutive year. Cape Town recorded a score of 61,9 out of a possible 100 – although showing a four-point decline on its previous score of 66,0 in 2020. Cape Town is also more than 10-points above the same level score of 51,1 for all municipalities and well ahead of all other metros polled, which perform either on or below par. The Citizen Satisfaction Index 2021 also shows that municipalities recorded the lowest satisfaction scores by a far margin for all industry sectors tracked by the SA-csi and Consulta.
"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 (perceived by the citizen), meeting their needs and reliability. Overall, the below-par 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," explains Natasha Doren, Senior Consultant at Consulta.
"When you look at what the drivers are behind satisfaction levels – or lack thereof - citizen mentions related to the 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. 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. For millions of citizens, this mandate is nowhere close to being realised," she adds.
The 2021 index indicates that local government is fast running out of road. 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. For example, Mangaung's rapid decline represents catastrophic levels in citizen satisfaction by any measure. 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 Natasha.
Key findings of the SA Citizen Satisfaction Survey 2021:
Overall citizen satisfaction score
- On Perceived Quality, Mangaung has plummeted to its lowest ebb at 34,3 and Buffalo City 43,6 – both significantly below par of 54,8.
- Ekurhuleni follows at 58,4 and Nelson Mandela Bay at 56,3 – the only other metros on par on Perceived Quality.eThekwini (54,2), Tshwane (52,2), Johannesburg (51,3), Buffalo City (43,6) and Mangaung (34,3) all perform below par.
- 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 (57,9%), followed by Tshwane (54,7%), Mangaung (53,9%), Ekurhuleni (52,3%), Cape Town (47,9%), Johannesburg (47,4), Buffalo City (40,9%) 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 (43,9) 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 and management is the leading issue for all citizens, followed by electricity supply and then refuse removal.
- Citizen Trust has declined to its lowest point since the index's inception, dropping to a par of53,6 in 2021, from 60,7 in 2020 and 64,9 in 2017.
- Cape Town is the outright leader on the trust index at 65,1 almost 12-index points above par and at least 10-index points ahead of any other metro.
- Ekurhuleni (54,8), Nelson Mandela Bay (53,7), Tshwane (53,4) and Ethekwini (52,1) follow on par, while Johannesburg (48,4), Buffalo City (44,3) and Mangaung (38,4) are well below par on Citizen Trust. All metros show a sharp decline in Citizen Trust scores compared with 2020, some with 10-index points and more, except for Nelson Mandela Bay which remained the same.
"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. 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. 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 run better councils resulting in continuous erosion of servicing revenue streams – all of this has massive implications for local economies," concludes Natasha.
The 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 citizens and delivering 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 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.
With the municipal elections just around the corner, we would love to know how satisfied your are with your municipality! Feel free to login and leave your comment below.