Municipal capacity assessment can be described as a test of the adequacy of people, rules, resources and knowledge for the supply of infrastructural services for the targeted audience. It refers to the people, institutions and practices that enables local authorities to achieve their infrastructure and service delivery goals as mandated by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1995, (ILGS 2009).
To comply with section 4 of the Municipal Structures Act of 117 of 1998, ‘to consider the capacity of a district and local municipality to perform their functions’. The Municipal Demarcation Board conducts capacity assessment for local and districts municipality in South Africa.
Section 85(4) of the Municipal Structures Act (1998) provides that the Municipal Demarcation Board must consider the capacity of a district or local municipality to perform its functions and exercise its powers when determining or re-determining the boundaries. “Capacity” is defined as having reasonable financial and human resources, and infrastructure to perform each of the local government functions listed in Schedules 4B and 5B to the Constitution, read with Chapter 5 of the Local Government: Municipal Structures, 1998 (Act 17 of 1998). The Board assesses the capacity of category B and C municipalities in terms of the Local Government: Municipal Structures, 1998 (Act 17 of 1998) read with the Constitution, and more specifically Schedules 4B and 5B to the Constitution. The Board has a further legal mandate to make recommendations for adjustments to powers and functions to provincial MECs.
MUNICIPAL CAPACITY ASSESSMENT - OLD MODEL
Since 2001/02, the MDB has undertaken an annual assessment of municipal capacity in fulfilling the above legislative requirement. Over the years, a questionnaire was developed and modified according to the capacity assessment requirements and the feedback was received from stakeholders.
Since 2002, the Board undertook detailed assessment each year and this required extensive fieldwork and the completion of the detailed questionnaire by each district and local municipality. A comprehensive data bases on municipalities in relation to powers and functions was developed and information extracted for assessment purposes.
Certainly, since 2002, the MDB has been actively preparing recommendations to the MECs for the adjustment of powers and functions for municipalities. Provinces and other role players were actively involved in this process via the MDB Powers and functions Committee. Given the time limitations, a broad assessment was undertaken examining mainly four aspects:
•Whether the municipality performed the function
•Whether it had a budget for the function
•Whether it had staff for the function
•Whether it had equipment for the function.
Overtime, these assessments have historically provided valuable information and have been widely used by all spheres of government, parastatals and non-governmental users. The last Capacity Assessment process took place in 2008/09.
MUNICIPAL CAPACITY ASSESSMENT – EVALUATION OF THE OLD MODEL
In 2010 the MDB commissioned an evaluation of the previous capacity assessment model in order to identify areas of strength and improvement. Having consulted a wide range of stakeholders through the evaluation process, the Board gathered valuable feedback and recommendations for enhancing this important process.
The evaluation of the previous model sought to provide a review and assessment of the following:
•The current Municipal Capacity Assessment Model as employed by the MDB, it appropriateness and usefulness to contribute to the effectiveness of developmental local government in South Africa
•The contents of the reports as produced by the Board, their appropriateness and usefulness to contribute to the effectiveness of developmental local government in South Africa
•How the Board’s Capacity Assessment model and its reports are received, and perceived by major stakeholders who have an interest in supporting and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of local government, such as National and Provincial departments of local Government, National Treasury and relevant parastatals.
The evaluation was to formulate recommendations of an alternate model as well as to improve the content of the assessment reports.
MUNICICPAL CAPACITY ASSESSMENT – NEW MODEL
The 2011/12 capacity assessment was the first to be conducted according to the new model.
Key Features of the New Model
Some key features of the new model include:
•New approach to understanding capacity and its implications for adjustments
•Updated means of data collection through a web-based data collection system, supported by telephonic engagement
•Provision of value-added feedback to municipalities to enable better planning and budgeting
•Open resource on capacity available to the local government sector
•A deeper, more rigorous qualitative engagement in 20% of municipalities where adjustments are being considered.
Purpose of new model
•To provide a strategic data resource on local government capacity to inform policy, planning and decision-making
•To provide municipalities with an analysis of their own capacity and performance while comparing it to peers and those in similar contexts. This will be an invaluable resource to all municipalities ensuring better planning and resourcing
•To provide data for future assessments of local government powers and functions
•To extend the scope of the assessments to include Metropolitan Municipalities
Data collection process
One of the key recommendations coming out of the review of the Municipal Capacity Assessments was the need to better co-ordinate and integrates national data collection processes which focus on municipal data.
The work done by the MDB previously coincided with the work done by National Treasury and StatsSA who also collect information from municipalities on an annual basis. An analysis of these data collection processes indicated that there is some overlap. An attempt therefore was made to co-ordinate, rather than duplicate processes in future years. Engagement with National Treasury and Statssa explored to determine whether the data they are collecting could be used for 2011/12 capacity assessment analysis, therefore eliminating the need for certain questions to be asked in the 2011 process.
For these reasons a key part of the preparation 2011/12 year included face-to-face engagement with National Treasury, Statssa and CoGTA. The outcomes of these engagements are summarised below:
Overall, National Treasury was enthusiastic about improving the alignment between its own data collection and the MDB’s process. The Department agreed to supply the MDB with the financial data which it has in its local government database for the 2010/2011 municipal financial year, at a disaggregate level needed to facilitate an analysis of municipal capacity in relation to financial resources.
A cautionary note relates to the quality of the data. As the financial information for 2010/2011 would be unaudited at present, the data quality should be recorded as ‘estimate’. However the Department indicated that it has its own quality control processes in place to ensure that the data is clean as far as possible.
The Department were also positive about the inclusion of performance information in this year’s process.
The meeting provided an opportunity to engage with the Census questionnaire and process; share the amendments that have been made to the MDB questionnaire; and, discuss ways in which the MDB, NT and Stats SA assessments can be linked in future. In terms of the latter, the discussion was around improving the synergies between the three organisations where NT carries out the Financial Census, Stats SA the Non-Financial Census and the MDB the qualitative assessment of municipal capacity.
The inputs that were provided were well received by Stats SA and provided the basis for future and ongoing interaction with the team responsible for the Non-Financial Census.
Relevant sector departments, as identified in Table 1 were contacted and desktop research was undertaken to better understand the regulatory role which they play and the data being collected. The following departments were engaged:
DEPARTMENT OF CO-OPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS
The Department indicated that they have historically made use of the MDB capacity assessment data in their own analysis, specifically with respect to personnel figures.
In inquiring about the data which the Department has available with respect to municipal performance, regulatory information and other data from sector departments, DCoG indicated that they had very little information. This was in part due to poor communication and a lack of coordination with sector departments.
We also inquired as to whether the Department had relevant data on the functions which it regulates, namely
Again this data does not seem to be readily available.
In consulting with the Department on the new questionnaire, the Department indicated that they would find it most useful if the MDB continued to collect personnel data and would also find it valuable if there was some assessment of performance. The most useful aspects for the Department included: the number of functions being performed, staffing numbers, vacancies and infrastructure access. This type of data would contribute to the Department’s policy review processes.
Overall, DCoG was enthusiastic about the MDB’s municipal capacity assessment process and expressed an interest in engaging further. The Department also indicated that it would investigate the availability of certain information (such as emergency services data) and revert back to us on this.
The Department were also positive about the inclusion of performance information in this year’s process.
WEB BASED QUESTIONNAIRE
An online tool was created to allow all municipalities with internet access to fill out the questionnaire, which is then saved to a central server. Municipal Managers were e-mailed a link and a unique password in order to open and submit the questionnaire. A call centre was set up to provide support by way of computer assisted telephone interviews. The provincial champions (representatives from provincial department of Cooperative Governance) also provided assistance where necessary.
The data submitted was verified by issuing a municipal report card to each municipality who was then allowed 1 month to verify the data they submitted. The web-based tool was launched on 24 October 2011. Witten communication to all municipalities was done in advance to raise awareness of the new approach, timeframes etc.
The web based questionnaire proved to have the following benefits:
•Multiple respondents can fill out different sections of the questionnaire
•Data security is maintained
•Data was automatically captured
•Status updates on percentage completeness were available
•Data was automatically saved as respondent moves to each new question
•The Municipal Manager could view the questionnaire, make changes to it, and submit the completed questionnaire
The municipal report card was designed. The aim is to assist municipalities to verify data by providing a clear picture of data completeness, indicating possible data inaccuracies and show comparisons. A report for provinces, national government municipalities and other stakeholders was generated from the database.
As the web-based questionnaire was populated, the data was captured directly into a MS SQL database. The database included all primary and secondary data – secondary data was collected from stakeholders such as National Treasury, Stats SA, Department of Water Affairs, NERSA, etc., and this data did not form part of the questionnaire. The data was then outputted into a municipal report card which was circulated to all respective municipalities for the purpose of verification of captured data and included comparisons with other like-classification municipalities eg. Classification “A” compared with other “A” municipalities, Classification “B2” municipalities, etc. National and provincial reports were generated from the database.
A deeper qualitative investigation into powers and functions sample of municipalities was undertaken. 2011/12 assessment period, 9 districts were assessed, roughly 20% of all municipalities. The general criteria used to select the 9 districts include at least one district per province and should include a contestation of high priority functions. Only 3 functions, Fire and Emergency, Solid Waste and Roads were included in the 2011 focussed, qualitative assessment.