Good performance on paper may not translate into superior service delivery, according to a new report by Good Governance Africa.
The non-governmental organisation’s report, Audit Performance and Service Delivery at Local Government Level, was based on 1,142 people surveyed in the Western Cape, Free State and the North West. It scored municipalities based on the availability and satisfaction levels of residents related to eight basic services.
The researchers were testing the hypothesis that municipalities which performed well in annual audits were also better at delivering and providing access to services.
But according to the lead researcher Chrissy Dube, this was correct only in the case of access to healthcare and police services.
It turned out that regarding these particular services, municipalities which performed better also had the cleanest books over a period of three years.
The survey explored to what extent the level of audit performance influenced service delivery and governance at municipal level.
The research divided local governments into high-performing and low-performing municipalities based on their performance in financial audits.
The report revealed that only 42% of respondents from high-performing municipalities and 40% from low-performing municipalities had access to sanitation outside the house.
Opinions on whether municipalities were well managed differed only by three percentage points between high-performing municipalities, in which 78% of respondents responded negatively, and 81% in low-performing municipalities likewise.
The report also found that municipalities in the Western Cape performed the poorest in terms of access to healthcare.
According to Dube, the overall research showed that, at least for the areas in this survey, good audit performance could not predictably result in good service delivery performance.
In the Western Cape, more than 50% of respondents in both the low-performing Oudtshoorn Municipality and the high-performing West Coast Municipality had access to piped water inside their homes. In the former, 49% of respondents were unhappy with the quality of water.
The report comes a week before Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu was due to release a general report on the performance of municipalities.