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n Journal of Public Administration - Development of a communication strategy for the non-payment of services : the case of Mogale City
During the previous dispensation in South Africa, black South Africans were viewed as temporary sojourners in urban areas and therefore the rendering of municipal services was perceptibly free (being incorporated into the nominal rental payable for the government-owned houses people rented). Both infra-structural and social development in the black townships was a central government function and funds provided for in budget allocations from Parliament. Today that situation no longer exists as both infrastructure and social development is the direct responsibility of local government, which ultimately has to raise the bulk of its funding from the services it provides.
Municipalities countrywide have outstanding municipal debt in excess of R30 billion arising from unpaid user payments for essential services. The struggle to balance income and expenditure means that cost efficiency is an important element of successful financial management. Municipal reliance on own revenue also means that municipalities need to grow their own new revenue base.
Mogale City is one such local municipality with an outstanding debt of R105 704 602.
The Municipality therefore embarked on a Revenue Management Enhancement Strategy of which the Community Liaison Programme is the first in a series of implementation phases. The Communication / Community Liaison process should ensure "buy-in" from the targeted communities/customers and acceptance of the processes becomes a critically important milestone to be achieved before any other programmes can proceeds.
The objective of the Communication / Community Liaison Programme is to address issues of non-payment for Municipal Services and Unaccounted Water (UAW) Usage to ensure the continuation of Municipal Services provision to the targeted communities on a financially sustainable basis. In order to reinforce the relationship between community benefit and payment for services, it is essential for the proposed communication strategy to reflect identified community priorities.
As a first step in the process a community survey was conducted to determine, in broad terms, the current attitudes and perceptions held by a representative sample of residents of Mogale towards the payment of services, so that an appropriate communications strategy can be designed to address the main issues which hinder payment.
Ultimately peer pressure must play a key role in motivating the community to pay for their services. It must not only be "the right thing to do", but in the final analysis it is the only way that development will become sustainable and therefore payment by everybody is essential. Defaulting should therefore be perceived as defaulters effectively "stealing" from the broader community. It is thus imperative to know to what extent this concept presently exists in the community. In addition councillors have reported that they constantly receive complaints from their constituents that they are presented with an amount to pay without any indication as to how that amount is made up. This is creating a negative attitude towards the concept of paying for services rendered by the Council.
This paper seeks to provide the outcome of the survey and recommending appropriate communication interventions by indicating perceptions and attitudes held by a representative sample of Mogale City residents relating to :
- The principle of paying for municipal services rendered by the municipality
- Whether respondents make a connection between payment for services and the on-going financial viability of the municipality and its essential role in maintenance, social- and infra-structural development,
- Respondents' attitudes towards payment and non-payment for services rendered by the municipality
- The attitudes of respondents who currently pay for their services vis a vis those who don't
- Attitudes of respondents towards the provision of services in Mogale City
- Whether people know what they are paying for or not
- Problems respondents have with the current billing system
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