The effects of fiscal decentralization on the provision of basic services in Emalahleni local municipality

April, Mvuyisi Sibongile Mkhululi
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Fiscal decentralization is defined as the degree of autonomy and responsibility given to subnational governments. Fiscal decentralization looks at the assignment of functions to different levels of government and the appropriate fiscal instruments for carrying out these functions. Fiscal decentralization implies a level of autonomy given to sub-national governments. Through decentralized budgeting, local governments are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that service delivery to communities is effective and efficient. Unfortunately the subnational spheres of government are more dependent on the national allocations as a result of a more centralized revenue collection system. The national budget is then shared vertically across the three spheres of government using the equitable share formula. The Local Government Equitable Share (LGES) is mainly allocated for the provision of basic services to local communities. The equitable share is also complemented with various conditional grants aimed at the reduction of infrastructure backlogs and other national priorities like water and electricity. However, the outcomes have been uneven across municipalities with some seen as excellent and others as dysfunctional. The South African Twenty Year Review Report indicates that challenges with the quality and functionality of municipal services in municipalities have led to backlogs and unevenness in the quality of service delivery which has contributed to deep-seated dissatisfaction in some communities, as evidenced by the steep rise in service delivery protests. This is an indication of how municipalities are not able to match the revenue they receive from the National Treasury and from collections made through rates and taxes with the amount of services expected from them. In a decentralized model of governance where national and provincial government are able to assign and delegate their responsibilities to local government, funding must then follow these functions. In doing do this will ensure that the responsibilities municipalities are tasked with are backed up by the sufficient budgets and other necessary resources from national or provincial governments. Unfortunately this is not the case in South Africa as seen in the multiplicity of ‘unfunded and underfunded mandates.” This clearly shows that the local government sphere has not been receiving sufficient revenue from the Fiscus to deal with the growing demand for services propagated by increased populations. This is a direct result of the failures of the fiscal framework that governs the allocation of funds to local government resulting in the smaller and rural municipalities being unable to deliver services to their communities. The Local Government Equitable Share formula also does not ensure equity among the citizens, hence most rural communities are still without basic services, including lack of sanitation and refuse collection in all the villages of the country. Even if the LGES was sufficient to ensure that basic services are catered for other functions of local government would not be covered and therefore compromising the principle of horizontal equity among the citizens of South Africa who are entitled to equal benefits, privileges and rights within the boundaries of the republic.
Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management school of governance. Research report for the partial fulfillment of the masters of management in public policy degree 31 March 2016
April, Mvuyisi Sibongile Mkhululi (2016) The effects of fiscal decentralization on the provision of basic services in Emalahleni local municipality, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <>