/Parks Tau: New service delivery model will empower municipalities

Parks Tau: New service delivery model will empower municipalities

2019-10-01 05:00

Districts will be empowered and even emboldened to initiate and enter into partnerships – to advance effective service delivery – with civil society, the private sector, and engineering association or accounting councils, writes Parks Tau.

For the first
time in democratic South Africa, local government becomes the nucleus of, and
for, societal development. A strategic mechanism mobilised for this purpose is
the district-based model. All the three spheres of government, working in
cooperative unison, will now effectively coalesce, in their operations and
functions at the country’s 44 districts and eight metropolitan areas.

What does this
district-based model to development actually entail and mean in practice? How
is it indicative, in the 6th administration led by President
Matamela Ramaphosa, of a zeitgeist moment and process towards rebuilding
and renewal of the country?

The district
model is a response to two structural challenges. First, the inefficient silo
and disjointed functions between national, provincial and local government.
This has resulted, among other factors, in inadequate responses to service
delivery challenges, slow reactions to environmental emergencies (like drought,
floods) and collapse, in some areas, of basic municipal infrastructure
services.

Second, it is a
consciously calculated intervention to close the growing social distance
between citizens and communities and their public institutions and civil
service. The outcomes of this distance, between public representatives and
communities, is evident in increasing service delivery protests that sometimes
result, or mushroom, in wanton infrastructure destruction.

ANALYSIS: Can Ramaphosa’s new service delivery plan get local government going again?

As various
evidence-based studies attest, like those from Municipal IQ, these community
protests or civil actions incidents, emerge largely from three interrelated
issues: contentious municipal demarcation, selection of compromised municipal
accounting officers, plus evictions and land invasions in areas unsuitable for
human habitation.

These two
structural challenges take place in a context of increasing service delivery
demands, from citizens and residents, and diminishing government revenue streams.
Hence the inclusion, in the district model, of alternative revenue-raising
options in local government such as, municipal pooled financing, municipal
bonds and partnerships with local industry.  

The principles
of the district model, or the eponymous “Khawuleza” service delivery model,
endorsed by the President’s Coordinating Council (PCC), will customise service
delivery according to local specificity of, for example, Metsimaholo, iLembe,
Mbizana, Maluti-a-Phofong municipalities.

Service delivery
will be guided by community needs instead of adopting a blanket national and
provincial mandates.

Of course,
these mandates will be guided overall by the National Development Plan (NDP)
blueprint, in its emphasis for instance, that all citizens and communities
shall have access to basic services and amenities. This fits together with the constitutional injunction, in Chapter 2 of the Bill of Rights, for government
to deliver socioeconomic services that enhances, “the right to dignity and the
right to equality” of all citizens, residents, economic migrants and political
refugees.

Additionally,
the district model will be distinguished by regularised monitoring and
evaluation (M&E) mechanisms to gauge service delivery made. Such monitoring
is targetted at identifying, and fixing, bottlenecks. Deliberate project
management, of turning policies into action plans, is to be tracked through
professionalised personnel who will assess delivery impact, capacity building,
and opportunities for shared resourcing.

The Department
of Cooperative Governance (Cogta) will be the implementing national
institution, working in concert with the provinces and the PCC. An objective of
working primarily from the combined 52 impact districts, is to ensure localised
complementarity in delivery of national commitments to the NDP, continental
obligations to the Agenda 2063 and pledges to implement the Sustainable
Development Goals or the Paris Climate
Accord.         

To effect the
district model and realise the aspirations of participatory government,
sector-specific social compacts will be important. Districts will be empowered
and even emboldened to initiate and enter into partnerships – to advance
effective service delivery – with civil society, the private sector, and
engineering association or accounting councils.

Social
compacts, which are implicit agreements between various stakeholders, are
singled out to encourage citizens and communities to honour their municipal
services. As the Cogta minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, indicated at the
2019 Budget Vote, it is unsustainable that municipalities are owed R139bn in rendered public services (water, sanitation and electricity), coupled with,
in turn, the R21.1bn owed by municipalities to Eskom.

Therefore,
social compacts, based on making concessions to reach shared consensus, are a
central instrument for all partners to work in unison to realise meritocratic
democracy, advance Batho Pele principles, consequence management, and
entrench a responsive citizen-centric government and governance framework.

The district
model is an opportunity for all South Africans across geographic, racial,
economic and ideological boundaries to build bridges towards practical,
measurable and non-partisan service delivery. A district model offers a ready
platform to address the systemic challenges flagged annually, for one, by the auditor general on municipal underperformance and to recapacitate the 40
municipalities under administration.    

The Khawuleza
district model deserves the support from all stakeholders, to address the
triumvirate developmental challenges (of poverty, unemployment and inequality)
so that local government can stabilise its systems, reinforce its governance
structures and be sustainable in M&E in the short- to long-term. 

In short, the
district-based model of development provides a strategic instrument to bring
back to life the civil service, realign it to its normative proximity to people,
reinstill trust and confidence in state institutions and an esprit de corps
where citizens and communities value public institutions.

– Parks Tau is Deputy Minister of the Department
of Cooperative Governance (CoGTA).

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