The impact of municipal infrastructure in basic service delivery in South Africa

Effective and reliable service delivery is one of the biggest challenges South Africa faces. This is largely due to the municipalities across the country not having the required resources to fulfil the delivery of basic services to communities within which they operate. By lacking in resources, it derails economic development and growth opportunities in poor communities.

What is service delivery

In essence, service delivery refers to the distribution of basic services such as safe water supply, electricity, health services, roads, street lighting, traffic controls, refuse collection, sewage disposal and maintenance, as well as municipal parks and recreation. 
The importance of service delivery falls on municipalities as they are directly responsible for maintaining healthy living conditions and improving the quality of life for communities. 

According to the South African Constitution Act No. 108 of 1996, the duties of municipalities are to “structure and manage its administration and budgeting and planning processes to give priority to the basic needs of the community. And, to promote the social and economic development of the community.” The duties also include participating in national and provincial development programmes, which play a key role in economic growth.

What are the effects of poor service delivery?

Poor service delivery and general poor government services lead to the decline of resources, zero job opportunities, job losses and overall poor living conditions. However, the service delivery issues in South Africa begin with the lack of adequate infrastructure. 

This refers to the fundamental systems and facilities needed to connect to the supply chain necessary for economic activity and function. Poor service delivery in municipalities is caused by numerous factors, for instance, municipalities are not financially self-sufficient and lack the necessary infrastructure and resources to carry out their duties to the larger public. 

DBSA’s contribution to the municipalities

Our role as the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) includes providing under-resourced municipalities with service management; infrastructure development and infrastructure budget financing. To break it down, under-resourced municipalities are generally municipalities that lack infrastructure plans. 

If this is the case, our teams assist these municipalities through our non-lending support portfolio. We help municipalities work on appropriate infrastructure plans such as drawing municipality budget master plans in water, sanitation, electricity, roads and stormwater, and infrastructure investment. 

We’ve come to learn that poor economic and social infrastructure delivery is due to poor planning. For example, there have been numerous low-impact projects identified which are implemented but bear no significant results, leaving service delivery challenges to remain. There are also instances where projects get implemented, but would later become dysfunctional due to lack of supporting infrastructure or due to poor planning. 

That’s why our role is crucial from the beginning of the planning stage; we direct government funding to high priority projects through the improvement of municipal infrastructure planning. Furthermore, our infrastructure planning identifies critical projects and creates a project financing pipeline for preparation. This helps to facilitate the creation of cost-effective socio-economic infrastructure, which boosts the municipal revenues. Once progress is made, we can improve the financial viability of beneficiary municipalities. 

Final thoughts

Service delivery in South Africa remains a big challenge for municipalities. By lacking in infrastructure, resources and maintenance, they are unable to provide communities with quality service delivery in fast turnaround time. In the end, the lack of municipal infrastructure halts progress in other areas. The Bank; however, helps facilitate the implementation of development plans to ensure that high-impact economic and social infrastructure is possible.