Public participation as a mechanism for promoting accountability in Sedibeng District Municipality
Mosokwene, Keeiso Petrus
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The concept of participation has long been practiced ever since man began to cluster together to form communities and as a result there has been a need to satisfy their needs. The study focused more on public participation as a mechanism to promote accountability in the SDM. There has been less done to address the issue of accountability and that can be attested by the recent spate of service delivery protests in South Africa. South Africa recently held its local government elections (May 2011) and community members expressed their dissatisfaction on a number of issues. Globally, local government is the sphere of government deliberately created to bring government to the grass roots, as well as give its members a sense of involvement in the political processes that control their daily lives. People don’t know who to raise their concerns or complaints with, and as a result the municipality must come up with mechanisms to promote accountability. The current approaches which are being advocated include, among others: legitimate structures for community participation (ward committees); mechanisms for communities to plan, provide facilitation and support to ward committees and community groups using community development workers; and holding ward committees and municipalities accountable. Municipalities are by virtue of a Constitutional or legislative requirement compelled to introduce public participation programmes for engaging community members and developing policies governing participation and accountability. In Sedibeng public participation is conducted in the context of Integrated Development Plan (IDP). The hypothesis was formulated which denotes that public participation can serve as a management tool to promote performance measures and accountability to achieve better results in SDM; yet, this management does not seem to be met effectively. The poor relations between the accounting officials and the community, affects participation negatively. Following the findings of the study, recommendations were brought forward and among others the following were noted: • SDM must review its existing policies on public participation and accountability on a regular basis to ensure consistency and adherence; • The idea of the district focusing on stakeholders and local municipalities focusing on ward based participation must be reviewed and be improved upon to ensure performance and commitment on the part of accounting officials; • The utilization and the effective inclusion of social groups such as the Sedibeng Disabilities Forum (SEDIFO), youth agencies, women, community groups Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and related entities have a role to play in ensuring the improvement and realization of accountability in SDM, and • Top or Executive management in all three local municipalities (ELM, MLM and LLM) must create an environment of easy access for ordinary people to reach them. The study did not only try to prove and test the given hypothesis, but also opened doors for further research in other fields such as customer care or relations, quality management and change management.