A community perception of service delivery: a case study of Impendle local municipality.
Muthwa, Emmanuel Xolani.
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With an ever increasing number of service delivery protests recorded each year, an inquiry into the quality of public service in South Africa might well be overdue. The fact that most service delivery protests have turned violent, upsetting community life and damaging private and public property is an urgent call for action from government. Yet as some have argued, this state of public service, though not deliberate, might be largely a direct consequence of government action. The government is thus accused of laxity in staffing, monitoring and evaluation, as well as implementing the audit and evaluation reports. As the prime implementer of government policy, programmes and projects, local government bears much of the brunt of this government inaction. The result is compromised quality in service delivery. This study investigates one such impact of government action on a Category B municipality. As a victim of boundary re-adjustments in 2009, Impendle Municipality has not received any financial complement to meet the service demands of its expanded jurisdiction. The assumption has been that with the increased number of communities within the municipality and no complementary budgetary increase, service quality at Impendle Local Municipality will be compromised. Using the service quality (SERVQUAL) theory, the study investigated this assumption through an assessment of: access, communication, competence, courtesy, credibility, reliability, responsiveness, securities and tangibles. Using mixed methods of data collection and analysis, the study purported to understand community perceptions on the quality of municipal services. Data was gathered through a triangulation of focus groups (conducted in each of the four wards within the municipality) and self-administered questionnaires with 80 of the 7432 municipal residents. The data was then triangulated in analysis to assess the community perceptions on the status of service quality. The study concluded that, in as much as the quality of service is low at Impendle, the problem is more with procedural issues of service delivery than it is an impact of boundary re-adjustments. Lack of access, poor communication, unstandardized service, and lack of reliability, credibility and courtesy, were viewed by participants as major issues compromising service delivery. However, the fact that these challenges are direct contraventions of the South African blueprint on service delivery – Batho Pele – re-affirms the need for effective co-operative governance in South Africa.