Document: Study into the Potential to Utilize Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) to Promote Inclusion, Public Participation and Accountability in Local Governance.


The theory and practice of participatory local governance in South Africa is bound to the core objectives of local government as set out in Section 152 of the South African Constitution viz:

  • To provide democratic and accountable government for local communities;
  • To ensure the provision of services to communities in a sustainable way;
  • To promote social and economic development;
  • To promote a safe and healthy environment; and
  • To encourage the involvement of communities and community organisations in the matters of local government.

Within the policy and legislative framework already outlined e.g. the 1998 Local Government White Paper and the Municipal Systems Act of 2000, the participatory and accountability aspects of local governance are of major significance. As the Good Governance Learning Network, a national network of NGO’s specialising in local democracy, notes:

The quality of democracy in South African local governance can be assessed in terms of the opportunities that exist for public participation; transparency of municipal processes; systems and accountability; the extent of corruption; and the nature of the relationships between elected representatives and officials.[1]

The 1998 White Paper on Local Government provides a useful breakdown of the four key elements of participation:

  1. As voters to ensure the maximum democratic accountability of the elected political leadership for the policies they are empowered to promote;
  2. As citizens who express, via different stakeholder associations, their views before, during and after the policy development process in order to ensure that that policies reflect community preferences as far as possible;
  3. As consumers and end users who expect value for money, affordable services and courteous and responsive service;
  4. As organised partners involved in the mobilisation of resources for development via for-profit businesses, NGO’s and community-based institutions.

These elements provide a useful conceptual lens and framework for understanding the use of ICT’s and their success or lack thereof in advancing participation and accountability.

The practical enactment of these principles has seen:

  • A code and guidelines for service standards and delivery (Batho Pele)
  • Wall to wall ward committees as structured and legally sanctioned forms of neighbourhood participation
  • Regularly convened forums for involving citizens in planning – the IDP forums
  • Budgeting cycles that legally oblige municipalities to seek citizen’s input and scrutiny
  • Public meetings or Indabas convened around key municipal events

Many of these systems however, have not fully met expectations. For example, public surveys highlight a number of problems with the ward committee model including a lack of clarity around the roles of the ward committee, the ‘stocking’ of committees according to political party loyalties, and lack of resources. Other weaknesses include poor links with sectoral interests, poor representivity and weak election procedures.[2]

Clean governance and financial accountability persists as an on-going challenge in local government as consecutive Auditor General and National Treasury reports attest. The Auditor General’s report for the period ended June 2008 indicates that more than half (54.4%) of the countries 283 municipalities had either disclaimers, adverse opinions or some degree of qualification in their audit reports. The percentage of municipalities cited for unauthorised, fruitless or wasteful expenditure rose from 38% in 2006/2007 to 45% in 2007/2008.

It is not surprising therefore, that since 2000 public perception surveys by Markinor and other research agencies suggest that corruption in local government is perceived to be on a par with corruption in government line functions that are particularly prone to perceptions of corrupt practice e.g. the Department of Home Affairs.

The principal legal instrument to combat financial irregularity and corruption is the Municipal Finance Management Act, which aims to create more direct accountability within council, specifically with regard to the decisions and controls exercised by mayors, mayoral committees and finance officers. In spite of this, investigations show that the major sources of corruption are tenders and procurement procedures.

Government has launched several programmes to deal with these trends; e.g. in October 2006 the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) launched a strategy entitled “Government and Communities in Partnership to Prevent Corruption.” This was an outcome of Project Consolidate and was publicised as an initiative “to promote a culture of good and ethical governance.”

Accountability safeguards are also built into the legislative framework. The Municipal Systems Act includes Codes of Conduct for both Councillors (Schedule 1.) and Officials (Schedule 2.) The Codes set out legal parameters that govern the professional behaviour and conduct of councillors and officials and many of the provisions are designed to prevent irregularity, corruption and misconduct that would potentially threaten the credibility of local government as an institution.

Despite these endeavours, the control that citizens exercise over elected leadership and municipal officials appears to be weakening. The State of Local Governance Report (2009 Working Document) by Cogta notes:

A culture of patronage and nepotism is now so widespread in many municipalities that the formal municipal accountability system is ineffective and inaccessible to many citizens.

While South Africa has strong structural models for participation, the performance of these models is questionable. According to Cogta (2009) there are about 3790 wards established countrywide, involving nearly 40 000 community representatives, however, independent NGO research over the last 5 years has been unable to show an appreciable contribution of these bodies to effective municipal – community communication. The 2009 State of Local Governance Report underlines this worry noting that, “…the functionality and effectiveness of the ward committees is a matter of serious concern.”

The Cogta (2009) report also highlights the consequences of weakened public participation and accountability:

In respect to community engagement with public representatives, in instances where it was found that there was a lack of a genuine participatory process, due to political instability, corruption and undue interference in the administration, then it can be said that there is a failure to provide democratic and accountable government. This failure is growing as evidenced by the community protests and intense alienation towards local government being expressed by such communities.

The most recent and comprehensive response to failings and challenges in local government was the 2010 Local Government Turnaround Strategy  (LGTAS) devised by Cogta largely on the basis of the State of Local Governance Report and other key research produced by the National TreasuryThe LGTAS sets out the key features of an ideal municipality and advocates tailor-made interventions according  to the specific governance patterns in individual municipalities. The LGTAS is guided by five strategic objectives:

  1. Ensure that municipalities meet the basic service needs of communities
  2. Build clean, effective, efficient, responsive and accountable local government
  3. Improve performance and professionalism in municipalities
  4. Improve national and provincial policy, oversight and support
  5. Strengthen partnerships between local government, communities and civil society

It is clear therefore that this study potentially contributes towards all these objectives and in particular objectives 2 and 5.

A broad range of good governance interventions are outlined by Cogta for achieving the above objectives e.g. working towards clean audit reports, organised participation in IDP processes, properly constituted staffing complements with the “right people for the job” etc. However the interventions that this study would most closely align to are:

  • Improved public participation and communication including effective complaint management and feedback systems
  • Political office bearers deployed in municipalities are well trained, inducted and have the capacity and integrity to provide leadership in the best interest of communities
  • Councillors are responsive and accountable to communities
  • A good citizenship drive encompassing:
    • Greater involvement in municipal affairs
    • Ethical behaviour
    • Prioritising the poor and vulnerable
    • Loyalty to the Constitution
    • Volunteering / community service
    • Transparency and accountability of Public Office
    • Responsiveness of Public Officials
    • Support and partnerships
    • Common national patriotism
    • Rights and responsibilities are inseparable

In line with these intervention strategies the LGTAS has resolved (within the participation / accountability theme) to prioritise the implementation of a new ward committee governance model, strengthen transparent supply chain management, use public works programmes to drive ward-based development and use the good citizenship campaign to “unite the nation” and mobilise public involvement in local development.

Practical evidence of roll-out of the LGTAS is lacking at this stage (May 2011) but the design and purpose of this survey would seem to fit well with the intended purpose and strategies of the LGTAS.

[1]Good Governance Learning Network 2008, Local Democracy in Action, p16

[2]Good Governance Learning Network 2008, Local Democracy in Action, p 30

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

1.       Introduction

1.1.        Context of Participatory Local Governance in South Africa

1.2.        Approach of the Study

1.3.        Structure of this Document (Roadmap)

SECTION A:  Context and Literature Review

2.       Introduction

2.1.        Aim

2.2.        Structure of this section

3.       Definitions and Context

3.1.        e-government and e-governance

3.2.        e-Inclusion

3.3.        e-Inclusion within the SA Municipal Sphere

3.4.        e-Participation

4.       Models for Municipal ICT Transformation

4.1.        Ferguson’s Methodology

4.2.        Developing Criteria for Success

4.3.        South African e-Governance Access Models

5.       Process and Systems Overview using Gartner’s Hype Cycle

5.1.        Transformational level of maturity

5.2.        Web 2.0 and Gartner Technology Maturity

5.3.        Process Technology for the South African Context

6.       Computing Technology Overview

6.1.        IT Hardware Categorisation

6.2.        IT Software Categorisation

6.3.        Mobile Technology

6.3.1.         Established Mobile Application Fields

6.4.        Web sites

6.4.1.         International Web Site Studies

6.4.2.         Website Studies: SALGA

6.4.3.         Website Studies: Van der Zee

6.4.4.         Government Web 2.0

6.5.        Other Technologies

6.6.        Non-Local Government Case Studies

7.       Legislative and Policy Frameworks

7.1.        Section 152 (1) of the Constitution of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996)

7.2.        The 1998 White Paper on Local Government

7.3.        The Municipal Structures Act (No 117 of 1998)

7.4.        The Municipal Systems Act, 2000

7.5.        Municipal Finance Management Act, 2003

7.6.        The Municipal Property Rates Act, 2004

7.7.        The Electronic Communications Act (Act 36 of 2005)

8.       Conclusion to Section A

SECTION B: Case Studies into South African Municipal Participative Best Practice

9.       Introduction

9.1.        Potential Case Studies in ICT Usage

9.2.        Top ten case studies

9.3.        Top three case studies


10.         Introduction

11.         Findings and Conclusions

11.1.     Clarifying the Meaning of e-Governance in the Municipal Sphere

11.2.     General Factors that Shape e-Participation

11.3.     ICT’s as Tools of Government Transformation

11.4.     e-Government Models: South African Government Proposals

11.5.     Infrastructure and back-office, not participation requires e-focus

11.6.     Hardware and Software Options

12.         Analysis

12.1.     ICT’s and Formal Participation in Local Government

12.2.     ICT’s and Non-Structural Forms of Participation in Local Government

13.         General Recommendations

13.1.     From e-Government to e-Governance

13.2.     Focusing e-Participation

13.3.     Institutional Culture

13.4.     Shared Services and Mentoring

13.5.     Independent Civil Society

13.6.     Incentives for ICT Enabled Participation

13.7.     Implementation Challenges

13.8.     More Detailed Examples of Technology Enabled Participation

14.         Model of an ICT enabled Local Municipality

14.1.     Infrastructure Level

14.2.     Software Level

14.3.     Informational Level

15.         References

SECTION D:           Appendices

16.         Appendix A: Case Studies

Ten Initial Case Studies

Three In-depth Case Studies

17.         Appendix B: Survey Questionnaire

18.         Appendix C: e-Participation Municipalities Decision Matrix

Cover: Study into the Potential to Utilize Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) to Promote Inclusion, Public Participation and Accountability in Local Governance.


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sammydhi's picture
sammydhi replied on

Great source of Data and strategic vision planning

rdokoye's picture
rdokoye replied on

Very interesting stuff, accountability is the big thing when it comes to governance, regardless of where it is. Even in running a business (like www.Ice, it's extremely important, anyway excellent plan.