Consultation Process With Local Government: Report-Back

This premium content has been made freely available

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

28 May 2001
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

 

PROVINCIAL & LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO AND SELECT COMMITTEES: JOINT MEETING
29 May 2001
CONSULTATION PROCESS WITH LOCAL GOVERNMENT: REPORT BACK

Chairperson:
Mr Y Carrim

Documents handed out:
Key Democracy & Governance Issues Facing Local Government: Report back from Consultation Process With Local Government Stakeholders, March- May 2001 (Appendix 1)
Consultation process with local government

SUMMARY
A report on the outcome of consultations with municipalities was also presented to the Committee. Much of the discussion revolved around the issues of capacity building, financing, funding and training of councilors especially as they relate to the transformation process of municipalities. It was evident from the report that municipalities were more positive about interacting with communities.

The Chair was pleasantly surprised by the turnaround in attitude of municipalities given their historical past of being averse to community participation. However, it was clear that there was a long road to travel to get municipalities to engage in social development.

A debate ensued on community participation and the issue of ward Committees. No legislation prescribes how they should be formed and what their functions should be. The Committee resolved to look into this matter.

The Committee adopted the Department Budget Vote 5 committee report.

MINUTES
Report on Consultation Process with Local Government

Ms Dominique Woodridge presented a report on the effects of a consultation process that she had undertaken with stakeholders in local government. The project was initiated and funded by USAID in order to inform the design of their Local Government Support Programme. The consultative process involved interviews with key national stakeholders and representatives from a sample of municipalities. The interviews focussed on ‘democracy and governance’ issues, aimed to identify key challenges, problems and opportunities faced by municipalities.

Some of the key issues that were raised in the consultative process were the following:
-Democratic council – community involvement
-Social and economic development, citizenship and civic responsibility
-Institutional restructuring
-Capacity for development

Democratic council – community involvement
From the consultations it was evident that the principle of democratic engagement with citizens and communities is widely accepted by local government. There is a need for agendas of municipal meetings to reflect the issues that communities are interested in dealing with.

A problem area that many municipalities was facing is the establishment of ward Committees. There seems to be a lack of guidance on what a ward Committee should be and how it should be constituted. These difficulties are exacerbated by the presence of certain obstacles in certain municipal areas. For example in some urban areas the public is held to ransom by gangs and cartels who have taken over control of certain municipal services such as provision of water and electricity.

Municipalities are also unable to define the roles of ward and Public Relations (PR) councilors. Problem areas are mechanisms for reporting back to community groups, accountability, and information dissemination.

Social and economic development, citizenship and civic responsibility
It would seem that municipalities find it easier to deal with economic development than with social development. Some of the obstacles that they encounter is crime, homelessness, unemployment and gang violence. Municipalities are exploring new ways to tackle social under-development.

The emphasis has always been on building houses and providing services but has never been to build communities. The result is that service standards might be high but social problems remain unchanged. Municipalities have also recognised the need to change the mindsets of the public. The public has to become more civic minded in their approach to municipalities and therefore campaigns have been launched to inform the public about what local government does. Poverty is a problem that is difficult for municipalities to deal with. They lack the skills to analyse and address poverty.

Institutional restructuring
Institutional restructuring issues are implicit within the issues of improved council-community relations and social and economic development. In general municipalities feel that they are under immense pressure to get normality as far as their operations are concerned whilst it is expected of them to at the same time deal with restructuring. They are in agreement that they are being pushed into a structured-based approach.

Capacity for development
As far as capacity building is concerned there are no longer general pleas by municipalities for assistance. They have identified specific areas where capacity building is required. Most municipalities need specialised skills development. Of even more importance is the need to change management skills and to emphasis on councilor development.

The above is some of the key issues raised during the consultative process. For detail on the actual report please refer to the attached document.

Discussion
The Chair stated that Ms Woodridge would not be required to answer all questions, as the Committee is already well aware of most of the issues that were raised in the presentation.

Mr J Horne (NNP, Northern Cape) stated that the main issue seems to be a lack of funds. What have municipalities said about this?

Ms Woodridge stated that the issue of a lack of funds due to non-payment for services had arisen but that they had not focussed on it. Municipalities have been engaged in programmes to try to explain to the public how important it is for them to pay for services. Community facilitators are at present explaining the concept of rates to communities.

Mr P Smith (IFP) asked to what extent did the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and provincial administrations interact with municipalities. On the issue of council-community relations, how do councils relate to communities?

Ms Woodridge stated that participation by communities is always not forthcoming. This is especially so in the affluent areas where the delivery of services are not problematic.

Ms G Borman (DP) asked if municipalities were aware that there were other ways of accessing funding. Participation is especially important where ward Committees are concerned.

Ms Woodridge stated that the financing issue had been raised. Even though finances are a problem it seems that the lack of resources is not the only problem. The overall problem appears to be council-community relations.

Mr Sithole (ANC) asked why nothing had been said about the Municipal Systems Act. Nothing has been said about how municipalities feel about the implementation of the Act.

Ms Woodridge stated that the Municipal Systems Act is exactly the reason why municipalities are trying to get communities to participate. This is maybe the municipalities’ attempt at giving effect to the provisions of the Act.

Mr J Ngubeni (ANC) stated that non-payment for services is a consequence of poverty.
He asked whether district levies would not be able to alleviate the situation. Funds from affluent areas should be channeled to poorer areas.

Ms Woodridge was not aware of any municipalities using district levies in this manner.

Mr M Bhabha (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked if there is an institutional or legislative vacuum that is causing the lack of certainty of what a ward Committee should do. Could it be legislatively corrected?
Mr Bhabha also asked what the level of training of councilors is?

Ms Woodridge stated that legislation requires that ward Committees should be formed but it is silent on what its functions ought to be. Many community-based Committees would evolve into ward Committees. Legislation does not prescribe what ward Committees should exactly be and do. This allows space for a political process.

Ms Woodridge pointed out that they did not have many consultations with councilors but dealt more with officials. The interviews did not shed much light on the training of councilors. She however pointed out that SALGA has a councilor-training programme. What is disappointing was that the programme focuses on media and press skills but does not touch on the politics of local government.

Mr Ngubeni asked the following questions:
-During the consultative process was there ever a notion that PR councilors were afraid that ward councilors were being given too much power.
-In the past municipalities were not keen for community participation, as they were afraid of having strong civic organisations pestering them with community problems. Was this indeed the picture or were municipalities eager for community participation.

- Ms Woodridge stated that she is unsure of the extent that PR councilors are threatened by ward councilors.
- Ms Woodridge said that some municipalities are against community participation in council matters.

Mr Smith asked why do municipalities not communicate with each other or with provincial associations.

Ms Woodridge stated that horizontal learning and networking is part of the transformation process. What could be done is to lend some technical support and assistance to bring municipalities together.

Mr Sithole stated that municipalities have a legal obligation to engage with communities.
He asked for a definition of ‘community organisation’.

Ms S Rajbally (Minority Front) asked if ward Committees were not lessening the burden on municipalities. The advantages of ward Committees is something that should be considered. Is there not a need for them?

Mr A Lyle (ANC) stated that from the report it is evident that some municipalities do not have clear strategies for engagement with communities. What is a possible solution?
He also asked what the relationship between ward Committees and municipalities are.

Mr B Solo (ANC) felt that the lack of capacity of municipalities is a problem. Maybe if they had resources at their disposal they would more readily interact with communities.
What programmes do municipalities have in place to encourage community participation?

Ms Woodridge stated that efforts are being made by municipalities to get communities involved. Municipal meetings are often scheduled for the public to be able to attend.Additionally efforts have been made to get people involved in the Peoples Budget.

The Chair stated that Chapter 7 of the Constitution precludes the Committee from prescribing what ward Committees should do. Should this position be relooked at? The problem is that municipalities are not communicating with each other.

Mr Carrim agreed with Ms Woodridge that there seems to be a lack of political direction. The Minister and the Department should be informed about the current state of affairs.

The Chair stated that the Committee needs to apply their minds on whether or not to be more prescriptive about the function of ward Committees.

Mr Carrim stated that he was pleasantly surprised that municipalities were open to the idea of having communities participating in their processes. The belief had always been that municipalities are vehemently against community participation.

Mr Sithole asked about the issue of capacity building whether funding had been discussed?

Ms Borman referred to the report and asked why it is silent on the fact that some municipalities had only applied for equitable share and not other funds.

Ms Woodridge stated that discussions between the Department and USAID have been ongoing. Amongst the topics discussed are where funds are needed and where they are not needed.

Mr S Pheko (PAC) stated that the problem of non-payment of services is directly linked to poverty. In these poverty stricken areas there is a lack of skills, lack of capital etc. In the demarcation process when poor and rich areas were integrated should this not have solved the problem? In addition the idea of civic social responsibility should be instilled in South Africans. Party-politics should be kept out of it.

Ms Woodridge stated that it is important to remember that social capital is just as important as financial and human capital. It is a step in the right direction that municipalities have become aware of the idea of local economic development as this is directly related to social development. Ms Woodridge stated that inequality is growing quicker within racial groups than between racial groups. Our societies are continually changing. Local government has to keep up with the times.

The Chair asked Ms Woodridge how she would personally define social development.

Ms Woodridge stated that social development was not a topic which municipalities cared to discuss. Municipalities were more inclined to speak about local economic development such as tourism.

Mr Sithole asked if the Municipal Asset Registers reflected that the poorer municipalities lacked the necessary resources such as computers. He also asked to what extent there had been a transfer of skills.

Ms Woodridge stated that they had not looked at Municipal Asset Registers.

Mr Bhabha quoted the report as saying that the roles of municipalities should be clarified in all contexts. All the possible roles had been identified in the Municipal Systems and Structures Acts. What more can be done?

Mr Carrim concurred with Mr Bhabha.

Mr Bhabha stated that in the report there are no complaints about the delivery of services. Are there no problems or is this a false sense of security.

Ms Woodridge agreed that legislatively there is not much to be done. The problems lie at local government level. Roles need to be prioritised

Rev A Goosen (ANC) stated that it is the responsibility of national and provincial government to assist municipalities in capacity building. How is this assistance to be given?

Ms Woodridge stated that they are getting assistance but that it is not nearly enough. The transformation process is still a very much confusing process for middle management in municipalities. Restructuring has been thrust upon them without any prior information or training.

Mr Smith felt it inevitable that the structured approach would have to be followed if restructuring is to take place in municipalities.

The Chair felt that the problems that have been identified are not so great given the magnitude of the transformation that is to take place in municipalities.

Ms Woodridge conceded that the structured led approach would in a sense be inevitable but stated that a great deal of institutional problems are coupled with it. The issues that are arising are not new.

Report on Budget Vote 5: Provincial and Local Government
The Committee unanimously adopted the report.

Appendix 1:
KEY DEMOCRACY AND GOVERNANCE ISSUES FACING LOCAL GOVERNMENT
REPORTBACK FROM A CONSULTATION PROCESS WITH LOCAL GOVERNMENT STAKEHOLDERS, MARCH- MAY 2001

A. INTRODUCTION

During the period March-May 2001, USAID undertook a consultation process to inform the design of their Local Government Support Programme. The consultative process involved interviews with key national stakeholders and representatives from a sample of municipalities. The interviews focused on ‘democracy and governance’ issues, and aimed to identify key challenges, problems and opportunities faced by municipalities.

This paper summarises the key issues raised during the consultative process. It provides a ‘snapshot’ of the way in which municipal representatives and other local government stakeholders are thinking about democracy and governance issues.

B. CONSULTATION PROCESS
The consultation process consisted of interviews and a workshop.
(a) Interviews
Representatives from the following national structures were consulted:
The Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG);
The Local Government Transformation Programme (LGTP);
The South African Local Government Association (SALGA);
The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB);
The Municipal Infrastructure Investment Unit (MIIU);
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Provincial and Local Government and National Council of Provinces.

Interviews were held in the following municipalities:
City of Johannesburg (Gauteng);
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Council (Eastern Cape);
Amatole District Council (Eastern Cape);
Buffalo City Municipal Council (Eastern Cape);
Knysna Local Council (Western Cape);
Klein Karoo / Garden Route District Council (Western Cape);
Cape Metropolitan Council (Western Cape);
The Durban Metropolitan Council (KwaZulu-Natal);
The King Shaka District Municipality (KwaZulu-Natal).
In addition, telephone interviews were conducted with 22 municipal representatives from a spread of municipal contexts.

(b) Workshop
The information generated by these interviews was summarised in the form of a paper for distribution to stakeholders. This paper was discussed at a workshop attended by DPLG, the LGTP, the MDB, and representatives from municipalities, in early May 2001.

C. PRIORITY DEMOCRACY AND GOVERNANCE ISSUES RAISED IN INTERVIEWS
A wide spectrum of challenges, concerns and ideas were raised during interviews with key stakeholders. We have clustered these issues under four headings:
- Democratic council-community engagement;
- Social and economic development, citizenship and civic responsibility;
- Institutional restructuring for more developmental local governance;
- Council and community capacity for developmental local governance.

1. Democratic council-community engagement
Consultations show that the principle of democratic engagement with citizens and communities is widely accepted by local government.

Many respondents highlighted the need for government to be ‘for the people’ by involving communities in the affairs of the municipality; by being accountable and accessible; by structuring concrete opportunities for participation; and by communicating effectively with citizens.

Participatory governance is increasingly seen as an integral part of governing, and not merely a ‘soft’ issue or a ‘nice-to-have’:
- Some respondents argued that local government efficiency and effectiveness is not simply a matter of better administrative systems and more resources. Efficiency and effectiveness is also dependent on participatory governance. Good relations between councils and communities, where councils can mobilise communities to become involved in municipal programmes and projects, is a key development resource.
- One respondent suggested that healthy democratic engagement is itself a municipal ‘capacity’.
- A municipal official pointed to the concrete example of Butterworth, which has been subject to a number of Provincial interventions after it was alleged that the Council was flagrantly ignoring community needs and misspending funds: "Money is an issue, and local government should receive additional funding. But money is not always the answer. For example, look at Butterworth – after the crisis a huge amount of funding was poured into the Council. But it did not solve the fundamental problem that relations between the Council and community had broken down. We need to build capacity for interaction, between council, officials and communities."

The vocabulary of council-community engagement is now well entrenched, and the dangers of not exploring opportunities for democratic engagement are well recognised. But the consultations also suggested that a body of working practices around democratic engagement is not yet well established. Municipalities may be acutely aware of their obligations to promote conditions for democratic and participatory governance, but most do not yet know how to meet these responsibilities in practice. As one respondent remarked: "After the Systems Act we now have a changed definition of municipalities as both council and their communities together. But no one knows what this really means."

The challenges of translating the principle of democratic engagement into practice can be seen in five critical issues.

a) Development of ward committees
Municipalities which are establishing ward committees are not finding the process easy. As one respondent said: "There is no clarification about what we need to do to constitute ward committees. How do we put these together? How do we structure and organise them? How do we empower community institutions and residents to participate in them?"

Many issues related to the design of ward committees emerged from our discussions:
- Large councils in rural areas with dispersed populations have to grapple with problems of geographic distance. A municipal manager from the Eastern Cape told us: "Some of our wards cover massive areas, with dispersed small settlements. I don’t know how we can communicate with these communities – a ward committee just covers too big an area."

- In one area we were told that the majority party in the local council was reluctant to establish ward committees as powerful structures in wards dominated by opposition parties. In general the principle of political plurality is recognised as important, but respondents have also noted a danger that ward committees, or equivalent structures, may end up being designed in ways that mute opposition voices where areas are highly contested.

- In many areas wards are delimited in such a way that they incorporate urban and rural areas, or cross old apartheid divides, with the result that committees will need to represent divergent community interests.

- Respondents pointed to the danger that establishing ward committees will be seen as a sufficient measure to enable participation. One respondent noted that, "Structures don’t solve the problem," and, "Just because there is a ward committee doesn’t mean there is adequate participation. Who is represented on the ward committee? How do they report to the rest of the community? How does the Council deal with issues raised in ward committees? These are the real issues we need deal with."

Councils are currently grappling with how to resolve these difficulties in their definitions of rules and procedures to govern the operation of ward committees. Some respondents noted that there has been very little communication between municipalities regarding ward committees: "Every municipality is doing ward committee procedures on their own. Why? We would be willing to share ours and learn from others, but we are playing this new game all by ourselves". Other respondents said they would like more guidance from national or provincial government on ward committees. Others asked for information on how similar structures were established in other countries.

b) Role of ward and P R councillors
Several municipalities indicated that they are trying to define the roles of ward and PR councillors, and designing support mechanisms for councillors. Key issues included mechanisms for reporting back to community groups, accountability, and information dissemination.

c) Respective roles of District and Local Councillors
Traditionally, district councils have been indirectly elected, and the district municipality has mostly worked through local councils in engaging communities. The direct election of district councillors, together with the greater service delivery roles of Category C municipalities, raises the question of how to define the respective roles and responsibilities of district and local councillors. A district official highlighted the problem: "We’ve established clinic committees in rural communities in the past. Now how do these relate to the ward committees that ward councillors in local councils will be establishing? A good relationship between C and B municipalities is essential. But the roles of district and local councillors still have to be worked out."

d) Structuring participation
Rural and urban based municipalities noted different challenges in making participatory governance a reality:
- In more rural areas such as the Eastern Cape, municipalities raised the problem of encouraging participation in extremely isolated communities where the costs of participation, in terms of time and travel, are prohibitive.
In urban areas, the costs of participative processes were not seen as a problem. The key issue raised was that communities need to be convinced that their participation will make a real difference in decision making around the budget, planning, or service delivery.

Some municipalities (both urban and rural) noted that their efforts to enable participation have been hampered by historical apathy or community demobilisation in the post-struggle period; by historical divisions and differences of interest between communities now placed together in the same ward; and by the difficulty of sustaining participation where the purpose of participation is unclear, or where it is around highly technical municipal operations.

All of the municipalities we spoke to are thinking about how the Systems Act provisions for a system of participatory governance should be implemented. Some municipalities have begun experimenting with new approaches to participation such as participatory budgeting. There was ample evidence that municipalities are willing to try new approaches to participation, and invest time and resources in this area.

e) Communication with citizens and community access
The Municipal Systems Act places new obligations on municipalities to communicate important information – such as performance measurement – to residents. However, few municipalities are equipped to communicate effectively with their citizens.

One problem is that communication has traditionally been understood as a ‘marketing’ or ‘press liaison’ activity. As such, it has claimed a very small portion of the municipal budget. One District Council, with a population of some 200 000, noted that a mere R20 000 had been earmarked for communication in the last financial year.

Some municipalities said they were not equipped to communicate with residents in very isolated communities, in areas where residents are suspicious of officialdom, or where a large proportion of the population is functionally illiterate.

Municipalities spoke not only of the need to explore creative ways of getting information out to residents, but also of the need to listen to and respond to citizen concerns. Some spoke of the need to develop "early warning systems" to better detect citizen concerns before these could become issues of conflict between communities and council, and of "plugging communities into a central control point". Others are establishing ‘People’s Centres’ which will give citizens better access to Council pay-points, and offices where complaints can be made.

f) Political decision making structures and political relations
The relationships between executive mayors, speakers, mayoral committee members, municipal managers and officials need to be clarified in practice. In some councils this is reported to be creating strain.

2. Social and economic development, citizenship and civic responsibility
The consultation process showed that stakeholders see both healthy democratic relations and effective governance depending on local government being able to address social development, economic development, the promotion of a civic culture, and poverty alleviation issues.

Those interviewed highlighted a number of issues:
a) Social and community development as a lever for increased effectiveness of council operations
The Constitution defines ‘social and economic development’ as one of the key obligations of South African local government. Most respondents were comfortable speaking about their obligations with respect to economic development, but more cautious in defining their obligations for social development. Some respondents associated the term with traditional social welfare functions, and were wary of possible unfunded mandates accompanying the obligation.

However, the consultation process confirmed that many municipalities see weak social and community structures, dysfunctional families, and social problems such as crime, joblessness, homelessness, poverty, social exclusion and marginalisation, impacting significantly on their effectiveness and efficiency.

"- Dysfunctional families are poor payers of municipal bills, regardless of their level of poverty. To ensure better cost recovery in communities with high levels of alcoholism, gangsterism and domestic abuse, Councils need to directly consider how to facilitate community and family reintegration."

- "Our traditional approach has been to drive new green-field housing developments or manage old housing estates without thinking more broadly about community development. We’ve been putting residents into areas but not creating communities."

Municipalities are exploring new ways to tackle social under-development. Examples include area-based approaches to development, and including social and development workers in housing project teams. However, respondents were not always sure where local government’s responsibilities for addressing these issues begin or end.

b) Citizenship, civic responsibility and the rule of law
Closely associated with the issue of social development is that of citizenship, civic responsibility and the rule of law. Many municipalities understand this issue as the need to change ‘mindsets’ as a key condition for effective council operation. They make the case for systematic campaigns and programs to encourage residents to recognise what local government does and to trust it to meet needs; to take responsibility for managing neighbourhood services where this is appropriate; to trust government to meet their need for security and report when by-laws are being flouted; to participate in council-community structures that can break the stranglehold of gangs and criminal groups on community life; etc.

c) Social exclusion
The problem of social exclusion is increasingly being acknowledged, especially in rural areas where there are many isolated and vulnerable communities, and urban areas where there are large migrant populations. Interviews suggest that councils see social exclusion as both a development challenge, and as a challenge to healthy council-community relations. Few concrete ideas are available for how to tackle this growing problem.

d) Poverty alleviation
Poverty was highlighted as a key issue in many of our interviews:

- One respondent spoke about the need to allocate district levies to local municipalities based on pro-poor criteria. "We are trying to say to local councils that it is increasingly difficult for us to fund projects unless you can show what its impact on communities in poverty will be. We want them to show the link with education or health programmes. They must justify the project in terms of its integrative capacity before funding is granted. We also want them to practically show what institutional capacity is needed for this integration, how functional linkages can be made to last."

- A respondent from an area with a high HIV/ AIDs positive population said the Council was grappling with the consequences of HIV/AIDs. "Servicing basic needs is important, but what’s the point of providing houses or water if people are dying. Only 40% of our communities are in urban areas. There are huge travel costs for very poor people in going 10km to visit the nearest doctor. If we want to build good relations with our citizens we must provide them with mobile clinics which go to their shack settlement where there are no facilities."

- A number of municipalities asked for assistance in thinking concretely about economic development strategies and approaches. One respondent said: "A preliminary socio-economic study of the area indicated high levels of poverty and a decline in economic activities in many areas. The median income per household is in the region of R300 per month. This in itself makes it initially impossible to establish sustainable local government where basic services are provided to all. The area provides big opportunities for development in the tourism and agricultural fields. The compilation of an economic development plan and the implementation thereof is crucial for the region."

e) Intergovernmental relations
A few respondents, when asked to consider their capacity to address issues of social development, poverty, civic-responsibility and the rule of law, were quick to highlight an intergovernmental relations challenge. For example:
- "We build houses and put in services. But if other spheres of government do not come through with schools, clinics and police stations, we are just building houses, not building communities."

- "We do tourism, so does the province and national. But there is no co-ordination, so it is difficult to involve communities and be developmental".

3. Institutional restructuring for more developmental local government
Institutional restructuring issues are implicit within the issues of improved council-community relations and social and economic development. However, we have presented institutional issues as a separate category because many stakeholders and municipalities had specific concerns regarding institutional restructuring.

A key challenge identified by almost all respondents was the institutional restructuring that will be needed after the recent re-demarcations & amalgamations, and the current process of dividing powers and functions between district and local councils.

A number of interviews explicitly raised institutional change with reference to developmental local government:
- Opportunities for more developmental local government in the current restructuring: Many municipalities view the current changes as an opportunity to make their institutions more developmental and democratic. One respondent explicitly stated that that, "you can’t focus on only one issue and patch one problem", and that municipalities needed to ensure a "match between building new service delivery systems and working in ways that are more democratic and developmental". Envisaged changes range from structuring new social empowerment or community development units into the administration, building a system of neighbourhood service centres, or introducing staff with unique social development expertise into traditional engineering-service departments

- More ‘functional’ ways of thinking and acting: Some stakeholders raised the related issue of needing to create institutional spaces for more cross-departmental, functional or outcomes-based ways of thinking or acting in municipalities. Effective governance, they suggested, depended on municipalities being able to think outside the box of traditional departmental units solely dedicated to specific services, and tackle complex cross-cutting issues such as community aspirations for safe and healthy environments. Municipalities were not able to suggest what this means in practice. There is general agreement that the conventional approach of simply ‘clustering’ departments has limited impact, and that more innovative solutions will have to be found.

4. Capacity for developmental local government
The interviews suggested that there is a growing awareness of the specific capabilities local government needs to function in a democratic and developmental way.

At the national level, some respondents emphasised the need for a more ‘scientific approach’ to determining capacity gaps, and highlight very particular deficits in capacity, most notably the inability of many councillors to perform the democratic decision-making duties effectively.

At the local level, respondents stressed the need to supplement the capacity of local-government generalists with highly specialised knowledge and skills better suited to managing more complex and sophisticated developmental institutions and strategies.

Both national and local respondents stressed the need for councillor development programmes. It was noted that a number of training programmes already exist. However, these should be supplemented with other capacity building measures, such as involving councillors in projects where their skills and understanding of development issues can be enhanced through practice.

Respondents also stressed the need for change management skills. Officials noted that high-level change management capacity was needed to transform large administrations unaccustomed to democratic working practices, or unable to operationalise new development objectives. "We are looking at 6 or 7 years down the road and we are still struggling to get people thinking differently. We have had a lot of staff reduction in recent years and the managers that are left are so busy doing operational work that they can’t manage change in others as well. We need people trained in change management and strategic management to show staff how their job affects others and the whole business of the municipality."

Specific skills gaps were also noted, for example: regulation and contract management, labour relations, property development, and project management.

D. CONSULTATIVE WORKSHOP
On 2 May 2001 a consultative workshop was held to:
- ‘test’ that the priorities identified through the interview process accurately reflected the needs of municipalities;
- refine the understanding of issues identified through the interview process; and
- create space for additional issues to be raised and incorporated into the design of the LGSP.

At this workshop, participants indicated that the four clusters of issues identified by the interview process provided an accurate reflection of the priority democracy and governance issues facing local government. The discussion added to, refined, and clarified the issues as follows:

Democratic council-community engagement
- Participation is used in many different senses. In one sense it is a means to an end, ie: it is functional and is a part of ensuring a sustainable delivery or development process. In another sense participation is an end in itself, and is valued for its own sake. In another sense the level of participation can be an index of the state of democracy in a local council. Understanding what we mean by participation in different contexts is critical for choosing the appropriate forms and measurements of participation.

- Following from the above, appropriate forms of participation depend on the purposes and aims of participation. They also depend on the institutional and locational context. Municipalities with different levels of resources will find different methods of participation most appropriate. And different methods of participation will work best in different locations, depending on factors such as the extent of community organisation, literacy, trust, and so on.

- There was wide agreement that participation needs to be linked to concrete benefits for citizens and groups which participate. Workshop participants suggested that engagement with citizens/ groups around issues such local economic development provided a good way of building better council-community relationships, as citizens/groups can easily identify the relevance of these processes to their everyday lives, and identify benefits to participating.

- It was noted that municipalities are now obliged to develop plans for community participation in local government affairs. The process of developing plans and strategies for communication and participation provides a potential entry point for supporting municipalities to develop viable participatory systems. For example, it creates space for discussion on issues such as what the council expects from participation, how to reach isolated or marginalized communities, and how to build council and community capacity to enable participation.

- One of the main issues which needs to be discussed in any municipality is which factors inhibit participation. There is a tendency for municipal stakeholders to blame poor participation on community apathy or low levels of community organisation. Similarly, there is a tendency for community groups to complain that council systems to do not encourage effective participation. Reflecting on past experiences and understanding where the blockages are, on both the council and community side, will enable he development of better participative strategies.

- Officials noted that it is not always easy to structure councillor involvement in participative processes. On the one hand, it is critical that councillors are involved, and that there is political support for projects. On the other hand, the involvement of a councillor from a particular political party may create the impression that the project is aligned to that party, and thereby restrain participation from people supporting other parties.

Social and economic development, citizenship and civic responsibility
Three major challenges were raised in respect of social and economic development:
- The first challenge relates to citizenship and civic responsibility. Workshop participants noted that, particularly in urban and inner city areas, development processes must aim to reconstruct a sense of community and build positive social capital. This is a difficult aim to realise through a planning, delivery or development project. Nonetheless, it must be seen as underlying theme which informs the way in which local government approaches project design and implementation. Local government has a key role to play in building notions of citizenship, reciprocal rights and obligations, social capital, belonging, trust and reciprocity, and so on. These notions inform people’s sense of themselves as part of a wider society, and therefore inform the way people act in local communities.

- The second challenge relates to co-ordination to enable integrated development. The challenges of developing a co-ordinated and integrated development strategy across spheres of government was highlighted. The 13 nodal points, identified by the Integrated Rural Development Strategy, were flagged as areas where an inter-governmental co-ordination approach will be piloted. Interesting, the municipal IDP is being seen as the basis for enabling co-ordination across spheres of government. It was noted that co-ordination within municipal structures (ie: cross-departmental and cross-functional) is as critical as inter-governmental co-ordination.

- The third challenge relates to capabilities, skills, methodologies, approaches, tools. Local government is now well equipped to design programmes aimed at addressing social issues, for example, poverty alleviation. There is significant scope for municipalities to learn from international experience, and share local experiences with different methodologies and approaches.

It was noted that each of these challenges present themselves in different ways in different contexts. For example: while infrastructure is better in urban areas, social problems such as crime and family breakdown are more prevalent in urban areas. In many rural areas, there is greater social cohesion, but infrastructure remains a critical development issue. This implies that different emphasis will be placed on the challenge of building civic responsibility and citizenship in urban and rural areas; that co-ordination will be required at different points and across different functions in urban and rural areas; and that different skills and capabilities are required to meet urban and rural development challenges. (This example crudely juxtaposes urban and rural conditions to illustrate the point – the reality is that there are significant variations within urban and rural areas and that the specificities of each area will influence the approach taken to social and economic development in that area.)

Institutional restructuring and capacity for more developmental local governance
The issues of capacity and institutional restructuring were felt to be closely related, and were discussed together. A number of principles related to organisational design, and building an appropriate capability profile, were raised. The discussions pointed to:
- Differences in priority across municipal contexts (eg: some rural administrations most urgently require staff and systems to perform basic administrative functions. More established municipalities are concerned with improving existing systems and building capacity to take on more complex functions, eg: monitoring for impact)

- The need to clarify roles and responsibilities, particularly between councillors (PR and ward) and the administration, in all contexts

- The importance of "soft" skills, in a context where staff morale and community trust in the administration need to be re-established during a transformation process.

It was generally agreed that the current transition process opens opportunities to create more developmental administrations. However, it was noted that the environment is not conducive to these opportunities being fully exploited because:
- Municipalities are under pressure to design new organograms as tools to enable staff to be transferred with functions, establish new lines of reporting, and facilitate the normal management of municipal organisations. Simply stated, until new organograms are approved, the departments which deliver new functions (or old functions across a wider area) will not formally exist, and staff will not be allocated to new departments. There is a danger that the transition process will be driven by the need to "normalise" administrative functions, at the cost of a structure-led (vs strategy-led) process.

- Municipalities are responding to incentives in the national framework, which are not always well aligned in respect of their organisational consequences. For example, the Department of Finance is giving restructuring grants to municipalities. One of the conditions of getting this grant is that services be ring-fenced. A workshop participant noted that this may be interpreted as a national incentive to corporatise the administration. On the other hand, the national framework also urges cross-sectoral integration. This raises the question of how to enable integration in a corporatised system. There is a danger that municipalities will follow the path which offers the most incentives (eg: put their efforts into ring-fencing to qualify for the DoF grant) at the expense of interrogating the developmental consequences of different organisational options.

Audio

No related

Documents

No related documents

Present

  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
Share this page: