A responsive, accountable, effective and efficient developmental local government system

NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN OUTCOME 9

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In 2030, local government in South Africa has the trust of the people, being committed to working with communities to find sustainable ways to meet their social, economic and material needs, and improve the quality of their lives.

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Local government – Downloads

Find out more about the National Development Plan.

National Development Plan – full text
National Development Plan – Chapter 13: Building a capable and developmental state
Medium-Term Strategic Framework 2014 to 2019 – Outcome 9: Responsive, accountable, effective and efficient developmental local government system
Infographic: Building a capable and developmental state

Local government – The vision

The National Development Plan’s vision is that, in 2030, the state will play a developmental and transformative role in South Africa. It will act to support and guide development to the benefit of all society – particularly the poor.

In 2030 the state will be accountable, focused on citizen’s priorities. Cooperative government and participatory democracy will ensure the consistent and sustainable delivery of high-quality services to the people.

Local government, in particular, will be committed to working with citizens and communities to find sustainable ways to meet their social, economic and material needs, and improve the quality of their lives. It will be at the forefront of participatory democracy, involving citizens in meaningful discussions about government and development.

In 2030 citizens will confidently put their trust local government, and its skilled, competent and committed employees.

By 2030:

• The state is capable of playing a developmental and transformative role.
• Government staff at all levels have the authority, experience, competence and support they need to do their jobs.
• Relations between national, provincial and local government are improved through a more proactive approach to managing the intergovernmental system.

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Local government – The challenges

Local government operates in a complex environment. More than R1-billion is spent on municipal support and capacity building every year. Yet municipal performance remains far from optimal. While the city municipalities in particular have made significant progress in service delivery, even these advances are obscured by overwhelming challenges related to the fast pace of urbanisation.

Priority challenges include:

• Weak political leadership
• Technical skills gaps and lack of relevant competencies
• High staff turnover and vacancy levels
• Weak understanding of policies
• Political deployments not always competent appointments
• Lack of career progression
• Poor attitudes & values of staff
• Lack of professionalism & regulation thereof by professional bodies & government
• Corruption at all levels with no consequences
• Unclear administrative-political interface
• Weak strategy – focus on compliance
• Weak financial management and low budget spend
• Weak council decisions, often contrary to technical advice
• Organisational instability, including review of S 57 contracts linked to political term of office
• Lack of oversight and accountability
• Lack of legal compliance or regulatory support
• Weak municipal systems

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Local government – Action required

Solutions detailed in the National Development Plan are essential to improving local government performance, ensuring quality service delivery and ultimately putting the local government on a positive path to achieving the vision for 2030.

Specific action includes:

• Use differentiation to ensure a better fit between the capacity and responsibilities of provinces and municipalities. Take a more proactive approach to resolving coordination problems and a more long-term approach to building capacity.
• Develop regional utilities to deliver some local government services on an agency basis, where municipalities or districts lack capacity.
• Adopt a less hierarchical approach to coordination so that routine issues can be dealt with on a day-to-day basis between mid-level officials. Use the cluster system to focus on strategic cross-cutting issues and the Presidency to bring different parties together when coordination breaks down.
• Create an administrative head of the public service with responsibility for managing the career progression of heads of department. Put in place a hybrid approach to top appointments that allows for the reconciliation of administrative and political priorities.
• Use placements and secondments to enable staff to develop experience of working in other spheres of government.
• Enhance the role of the Public Service Commission to champion and monitor norms and standards to ensure that only competent and suitably experienced people are appointed to senior positions.
• Amend the Public Service Act to locate responsibility for human-resources management with the head of department.
• Establish a formal graduate recruitment scheme for the public service with provision for mentoring, training and reflection. Formulate long-term skills development strategies for senior managers, technical professionals and local government staff.
• Use assessment mechanisms such as exams, group exercises and competency tests to build confidence in recruitment systems.

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Local government – Key medium-term goals for 2019

South Africa’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (2014 to 2019) identifies the following sub-outcomes to ensure a responsive, accountable, effective and efficient developmental local government system.

• Members of society have sustainable and reliable access to basic services.
• Intergovernmental and democratic governance arrangements for a functional system of cooperative governance strengthened.
• Sound financial and administrative management.
• Promotion of social and economic development.
• Local public employment programmes expanded through the Community Work Programme.

Local government – Key medium-term targets for 2019

South Africa’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (2014 to 2019) identifies the following targets to ensure a responsive, accountable, effective and efficient developmental local government system.

09 local govt targetsGRAPHIC: MARY ALEXANDER

 Researched, edited and compiled by Mary Alexander
Updated December 2015