Read this step by step guide to understanding and analyzing a local government budget with a focus on a specific service delivery issue. The guide was a collaborative effort with the International Budget Partnership-South Africa and the Accounting for Basic Services project.
Local government in South Africa plays a critical role in the economic and social development strategies and programmes of the country. Municipalities across South Africa face a complexity of challenges around land, infrastructure, environment, livelihoods, technology, equitable financing and use of state resources and corruption as a result of the socio-economic pressures placed on them. As result, South Africa’s local government landscape has seen, in the past decade, increasing levels of community protest action along with higher levels of violence due to huge inequalities, inadequate infrastructure and service backlogs.
It is therefore critical that the platforms and facilities for communities to express their needs and service delivery concerns to their local government representatives be strengthened. One tool that can contribute to strengthening the political voice of community groups advocating for a better delivery of services and the equitable use of state resources is that of budget analysis and advocacy. A local government budget is more than an accounting tool: it is a strategic service delivery and developmental plan that expresses the municipalities’ key policy decisions and priorities. In order to achieve these objectives the process of developing the municipalities’ budgets should involve citizen participation. The involvement of ordinary citizen’s is important for improving service delivery and reducing corruption and enhancing citizen trust, by making local government officials and political leaders accountable to their communities.
This guide describes a step-by-step approach to help strengthen ordinary South Africans with reading and analyzing local government budgets with a focus on a particular service delivery issues. Content and cases presented in the guide draw on the experiences of a number of CSOs involved in budget work around South Africa including the Social Justice Coalition and partners in the Accounting for Basic Services Project (Planact, Built Environment Support Group, Afesis-corplan, the Heinrich Boell Foundation and Isandla Institute), an initiative supported by the European Union.