It is abundantly clear that local municipalities in South Africa are, on average, not delivering on their constitutional mandate. Many are on the brink of collapse, undermining the promise of a better life for all. The need for a mechanism to hold local governments to account has never been stronger. In this context, the GPI is a ranking instrument that provides all interested stakeholders with an index of municipal-level governance performance. Governance is ultimately about the efficient and productive allocation of resources. Its presence, or lack thereof, is most keenly felt at the local level. Transparency and accountability are the key building blocks of good governance. At Good Governance Africa, our mandate is to improve government effectiveness and to strengthen citizens to hold their governments to account. The purpose of building a ranking index, in the shape of our enhanced GPI, is to equip citizens to this end.
At its most basic level, the GPI reflects which municipalities are excelling and which require improvement. It is, simultaneously, a tool that aids investment decision-making, as it provides a snapshot of the attractiveness of each local municipality – where local infrastructure is well maintained and key services are delivered efficiently and responsibly, businesses can flourish. Flourishing businesses, in turn, create jobs. The GPI also serves as a performance improvement incentive and a benchmark against which local municipalities can track their performance. It is designed to help municipalities to be more accountable to their citizens for better performance (by aiming to achieve a better score in the next round and moving up the rank). The prime purpose of the GPI is to reflect the importance of good governance at the local municipal level and GGA has designed it as a tool to influence national-level policy that can improve local governance.
The 2021 GPI is methodologically enhanced and differs significantly in this respect from its predecessors. Its framework is drawn primarily from the legal and official policy structures governing municipalities in the Republic of South Africa. These include:
In this iteration of the GPI, we have ensured – to the best of our ability – that municipalities are fairly ranked according to their primary mandate as can be inferred from the above framework. In addition, to ensure comparability and accuracy, local municipalities are ranked separately from the metros. For the local municipalities, data was gathered for 18 indicators under three governance categories:
Planning and Monitoring
For the Metros, data was gathered on 20 indicators under four governance categories. The Metros had an additional governance category: ‘Development’ – owing to their larger budget capacity. The most recent available data (2019 – 2021) was gathered from Statistics South Africa, The Auditor General of South Africa (Audit Outcomes, and the Covid-19 Audit Report) and The National Treasury. There is a rank of the 205 local municipalities, and a separate rank of the eight metropolitan municipalities.
The top performing municipality is Cape Agulhas Local Municipality, followed by Bergrivier Local Municipality and Saldanha Bay Local Municipality, all in the Western Cape. Of the top
are in the Western Cape
are in Gauteng
In the top 20, one municipality, Kannaland Local Municipality (Western Cape), has been under provincial administration1 since December 2016. Of the 205 local municipalities, 12.2% are currently under administration, with the majority being in the lower performing municipalities. The situation is especially concerning in North West Province, where 10 out of the 18 local municipalities are currently under administration. Among the bottom 20 municipalities, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo both have five municipalities each, while the Eastern Cape has four municipalities, and Northern Cape and North West each have two municipalities. Mpumalanga and Free State each have one municipality in the bottom 20.
1 - One might expect that municipalities under administration would show poor performance. However, the fact that this municipality has been performing comparatively well, despite being put under administration, is an indication that this governance intervention can produce the desired effect.
Given the prominence it holds within the mandate and responsibilities of local municipalities, Service Delivery was the category we weighted as most important within our ranking system. Some of the main factors affecting service delivery performance include access to piped water, flush toilet connected to sewerage, access to electricity and weekly refuse removal. While households in all municipalities have access to electricity to various extents, only in less than a quarter of municipalities do at least 95% of households have access to electricity. In 106 of the 205 local municipalities at least 50% of households have access to weekly refuse removal, implying that most households in about half of the local municipalities do not have regular access to basic services such as weekly refuse removal. Only in a quarter of the local government municipalities do over 50% of households have access to piped water within the building in which they live.
It is also important to consider how municipalities are performing in terms of their mandate to provide free basic services to households identified as indigent, an essential responsibility in ensuring that poor and disadvantaged households have access to basic services which can help improve their living standards. In this regard, at least half of all local municipalities are providing help to 100% of indigent households with access to adequate water, electricity, sewerage systems and refuse removal.
Administration was our next most important category, which examined indicators such as financial compliance, accountability, financial soundness and adequate performance in human resources management. Audit outcomes were one critical measure of performance in the administration category, with only seven of the 205 local municipalities obtaining a completely clean audit across each of the three most recent financial Auditor General MFMA reports. Local municipalities tended to do better in Planning and Monitoring, with nearly a third of them fully submitting plans such as annual Integrated Development Plans, and monitoring performance and outcomes as required of them by their mandate. However, this raises a difficulty: plans are in abundance, but implementation is sorely lacking. Moreover, failure to obtain a clean audit is often met with few credible consequences, enabling poor governance to become systemically entrenched.
As part of the statistical analysis conducted to study some of the determinants of GPI scores, several variables were found to have meaningful bivariate relationships with GPI performance. These include factors such as the province within which a municipality is located, the population size of a municipality, the population density of a municipality, as well as voter turnout in the 2016 local government and 2019 national government elections. Whereas higher population sizes and higher population densities were linked with lower scores on the GPI, higher voter turnout patterns were linked with better performances on the GPI.
By contrast, variables such as area size, which party controls a municipality, and which district a municipality is located in did not have meaningful links with performance on the GPI. This suggests that municipal performance is less the consequence of which political party is in charge of the municipality itself, and more linked with population and provincial dynamics. However, this does not mean that agency plays no role in determining municipal performance, since ethical and competent leadership – regardless of politics - plays a role in ensuring that municipalities are properly governed in terms of Administration, Planning and Monitoring, and Service Delivery. Furthermore, higher levels of unemployment and higher poverty levels are linked to adverse performance on the GPI. This is unsurprising and re-emphasizes the need for good municipal governance given the importance of good planning, free basic services and good management of resources in impacting the daily lives of people living in these communities.
In terms of the metropolitan municipality ranking, the ranking of the top four municipalities of the City of Cape Town, City of Tshwane, City of Johannesburg, and Nelson Mandela Bay was very close, with the City of Cape town ranking first primarily due to its performances in the Service Delivery and Planning and Monitoring categories. On the other hand, the City of eThekwini ranked lowest primarily due to the inconsistent performance it has had in the categories of Service Delivery and Administration.
Ultimately, local government is the level at which governance most directly impacts people’s lives through rigorous planning, adequate service delivery, maintaining infrastructure and proper financial management. More than anything else, what the GPI demonstrates is the need for all spheres of government, including those at the national and provincial levels, to assist municipalities in working to achieve better outcomes in these areas of responsibility. This is essential if local government is to achieve the ideal set out in the White Paper on Local Government that “strong and capacitated developmental local government has a substantial contribution to make to improving South African citizens' quality of life, and to the development of the nation”.