OPINION PIECE: A good municipal policy does not guarantee compliance

Opinion piece by Ali Ghule

11/04/2019 12:39:20

A good municipal policy does not guarantee compliance


It is a legal requirement for all municipalities to have their -policies and key documents easily accessible to the public.

These should be uploaded on the municipality’s website and also readily available to the public at the municipal offices and libraries.

Documents which must be available include the Integrated Development Plans (IDPs), budgets, annual reports, indigent policy, debt collection policy, by-laws, service delivery agreements and procurement contracts over a certain value.

However, the policies are often inadequate and are not supported by reliable information.

Even municipalities which have some or even all of these policies in place still cannot be classified as effective local governments. In most cases, these policies are treated as mere formalities but ticking the “Existing Policy” box unfortunately does not result in efficient service delivery.

The policies must be in place, and the results should be there for all to see.  

In the case of local government, good results ultimately equal service delivery to residents. Otherwise, no matter how good the policy documents, they will remain meaningless. Whenever residents protest about service delivery, it is mostly due to lack of said delivery and not because they don’t understand the meaning or interpretation of the policies. They want to see the concrete results from properly implemented policy.

Maybe it’s time that we not only demand compliance with policies but also measure the effectiveness of municipalities’ performance at a grassroots level, by looking at statistics or measuring what they have actually done for their residents.

We need to look at concrete evidence instead of pointing out perfect policies on websites or in office files. For instance, look at a municipality’s financial statements to see if a debt collection policy should be introduced or, if it exists, if it is being implemented. Consider what the use is of an indigent policy, if the municipality cannot correlate that with a debt collection policy to address the culture of non-payment by those who don’t qualify for exemption.

In short, we want to know which policies a municipality has passed, we want the legally required access to those policies and key documents, and we want to see compliance. That means the municipalities must take those policies seriously and implement them.

Ali Gule is a Community Engagement Officer at OUTA     

OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.