A study to determine the quality of GIS support service rendered to municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal using servqual scale approach.
Since the birth of a new democracy in the Republic of South Africa in 1994, municipalities across the country have embarked on several service-oriented programmes primarily to improve the quality of life of ordinary citizens within their areas of jurisdiction. Subsequently, these programmes which include Land Use Management System (LUMS), Integrated Development Planning (IDP), Integrated Sustainable Rural Development, Local Economic Development (LED), Urban Renewal Strategy, Property Rate Implementation and Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) have been tailored to fast track service delivery in municipalities by building capacity and promoting small, medium and micro enterprises in local communities as a means of alleviating poverty (Local Government Programmes, 2004, paragraph 4). In order to speed up the development planning processes in the Province with regards to Integrated Development Planning, Spatial Development Framework and Land Use Management, Integrated Sustainable Rural Development, Local Economic Development (LED) and Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG), it has been identified that local authorities require a GIS application to integrate spatially related municipal information with other business information (Sarkar, 2004, paragraph 1). In view of this, the Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs (DLGTA) has for the past six years, provided financial and technical support to the ten (10) District Municipalities and about thirty (30) Local Municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal to facilitate the establishment of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in these municipalities (DLGTA Municipal GIS Capacity Building Manual, 2004). It is further noted that although a substantial amount of grant funding and technical support has been provided to the 10 District Municipalities and thirty Local Municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal, the full utilization of GIS as a decision-making support tool has not, as yet, been realised in some of these municipalities. This scenario thus calls for the need to ascertain municipalities' expectation and perception of the quality of GIS support services rendered to them by the Department and also to measure the gap thereof. To do so, the researcher employed SERVQUAL scale methodology to measure the service quality gap between municipalities' expectation and perception of the quality of GIS support services. A selfadministered questionnaire, which covers the five (5) dimensions of service quality, namely; tangible, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy, was compiled and forwarded to the 10 District municipalities and 20 Local Municipalities in the Province to complete and return to the researcher within a specified time period. Fourteen (14) of the thirty (30) questionnaires sent out to these municipalities were returned to the researcher. The data was then analysed and conclusions were drawn. The research discovered that responsiveness, assurance, empathy and tangible dimensions are significant to municipalities in that they all had average expectation statement scores above 6 on the Likert 7-point scale. This means that respondents strongly agree to the expectation statements relating to these dimensions. On the other hand, the average expectation statement score relating to reliability dimension is below 6. The research result has shown that DLGTA is perceived by municipalities for rendering a desirable level of services to municipalities with respect to aspects relating to reliability, assurance, empathy and tangible dimensions. However, DLGTA seems not to provide prompt service to most of these municipalities and not showing signs of readiness to respond to their requests on GIS matters. It is also noted that there is a wide gap between municipalities' perception and expectation for responsiveness (-1.19), empathy (-0.90) and assurance (-0.98), and this seems to confirm the view that responsiveness and assurance dimensions are the most significant variables out of the five determinants of service quality, and thus require service improvement attention. The outcome of the survey reflects that the GIS concept is relatively new to some of these municipalities, and thus municipal officials want to feel safe in their transactions with DLGTA on GIS matters. As a result, they expect DLGTA officials to attend to them promptly and must have the knowledge to answer their GIS related questions. They strongly require DLGTA staff to give them individual attention and possibly have their best interest at heart. In this study, the responsiveness dimension is classified as having a poor service quality whiles the reliability dimension (with a narrow gap) has the superior service quality. To minimise or eliminate these gaps, it has been mentioned that DLGTA should be guided by the eight principles of Batho Pele which seem to take care of the key requirements of the five service quality dimensions as discussed in this dissertation. Based on this outcome, recommendations were made and a future research proposal outlined.