Social audit damns Cape Town City's sanitation delivery

Despite the City of Cape Town employing 900 janitors for 160 communities and servicing 11?000 toilets, poor planning has failed the city. (David Harrison, M&G)

Despite the City of Cape Town employing 900 janitors for 160 communities and servicing 11?000 toilets, poor planning has failed the city. (David Harrison, M&G)

A report on the findings of a social audit into janitorial services launched by the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) in Khayelitsha today, indicates poor planning and oversight by the City of Cape Town have led to a failure to deliver satisfactory sanitation.

Despite having a budget of R60-million for its janitorial services project in this financial year (2014/2015), employing 900 janitors in 160 communities of informal settlements across the city and servicing 11 000 toilets, the social audit found that a lack of adequate planning, management and monitoring of the service has undermined the quality of its delivery, resulting in toilets that are often too dirty to use.

“We celebrated the city [when they announced the janitor service],” said Axolile Notywala, Imali Yethu (Our Money) project manager at the SJC. “We welcomed it, because it would improve many of the people’s lives who are using flush toilets.”

But, according to the SJC, the service was rolled out without an implementation plan.

“When we engaged with the City, we said the service would work efficiently if there was a plan that the City would implement,” said Notywala.

This lack of follow-through is not new.

“The country is facing a slow disaster when it comes to sanitation failure,” said Dr Jo Barnes, epidemiologist and senior lecturer in community health at Stellenbosch University. She said the findings of the janitorial services audit is a microcosm of the state of sanitation in South Africa.

This is not the first warning.
Earlier this year, the South African Human Rights Commission said the lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation is  potentially a “national crisis”

Giving the community the right to know
Protesters have recently put sanitation in the spotlight – but the struggle to address “the sanitation crisis facing poor and working-class residents in Cape Town’s informal settlements” is not new. 

Instead of protesting, since 2013 the SJC has used social audits, a community participatory tool, to monitor sanitation service delivery against actual government spending. This social audit was the third conducted by the organisation.

At the heart of social audits is access to information, a source of empowerment for the community. “The city is used to owning its data, and owning the story around service delivery,” said Jared Rossouw of nongovernmental organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi – Dare to Know.

“The city doesn’t know how to handle communities empowered to engage them with real evidence.”

After collecting the evidence, the preliminary results were presented at a public hearing in July, where the community and government officials were invited. “It’s a constructive way to engage, based on evidence that beneficiaries [of the service] themselves collected,” said Notywala.

The presidency agrees
Jonathan Timm, a specialist in citizen-based monitoring at the department of performance monitoring and evaluation of the presidency, said that social audits were a valuable way to produce evidence of how service delivery plans are being realised on the ground: “This evidence can shift debate toward real insights and improvements, based on the lived experience of ordinary people.

“Social audits are potentially a powerful tool for government managers to know what is happening on the ground. If you take a situation where a company is contracted to deliver services on behalf of a municipality, a social audit monitoring compliance with the terms of that contract could really strengthen accountability, service delivery and value for money. The method is also a way to build active citizenry.”

According to the SJC audit:

•  A third of residents say janitors clean their toilet only one day a week. The toilets are supposed to be cleaned every day. But 50% of residents interviewed said that janitors never cleaned toilets in their area.

•  Almost half (49%) of the toilets inspected were classified “dirty” or “very dirty”. In the worst case, it means the toilet pan is blocked by excrement or rubbish so residents can’t use it, and the floor is covered with rubbish;

•  The ground surrounding more than half the toilets inspected was “dirty” or “very dirty”. Rubbish, rotting food and sewage pollute the toilets’ surroundings;

•  One in four flush-toilets audited were not working, which according to the report “increases the usage rate of other toilets, putting much strain on existing infrastructure”. Janitors are responsible for fixing minor faults, and reporting major faults to the city;  and

•  Prior to starting work, janitors are supposed to be inoculated against disease. Only 13% of janitors were inoculated.

Policy without an implementation plan
The city says its janitorial service policy provides jobs – it forms part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), and that its janitors are constantly monitored and educated.

“The city is currently looking into various ways of improving education and awareness around the overall service of a full flush toilet,” says councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, mayoral committee member for utilities in the City of Cape Town.

Sonnenberg cites various recent initiatives to improve the service, including the implementation of internationally approved systems to control activities (for example the issuing of chemicals and tools) and the appointment of dedicated supervisors to co-ordinate the issuing of chemicals and tools and to track their use.

The social audit results paint a different picture, however. This audit was the result of a long and drawn-out process, for an implementation plan of the janitorial service, and access to water and sanitation more broadly.

An attempt to create joint plans for improving sanitation conditions in informal settlements took the form of a sanitation summit in 2011 hosted by the SJC. Mayor Patricia de Lille participated in the summit, along with individuals representing 60 organisations. One of the suggestions from the summit was the creation of a janitorial service. The City of Cape Town rolled out this service in April 2012.

It soon emerged that, despite its potential to facilitate better access to sanitation for the community of Khayelitsha, the service was problematic.

Operational policy not released
Six months after the janitorial service was rolled out, in October 2012 the mayor admitted “the City has not managed the programme effectively” in a press statement. 

Since then, the SJC said the city had committed to providing an implementation plan for the service. The SJC has still not received it.

After the NGO marched to the mayor’s office in June last year to demand a timeframe for the development of the plan, Sonnenberg issued a statement to say an operational policy had been developed, but refused to release it publicly.

The “systems procedure” was released in July 2013 after a letter of demand from the SJC’s lawyers. It did not contain the city’s plan for the implementation of the janitorial service, however.

The city convened a janitorial services summit in March this year, and set up a committee to draft a plan which would be released within three months. When this did not happen by June, the SJC decided to conduct a social audit.

When the Mail & Guardian asked Sonnenberg to share the implementation plan, he said: “The programme is motivated for through a Project Initiation Document. This is standard to all EPWP programmes.

“The city plans to install over 1 300 full flush toilets in various communities across the city in this financial year,” he said. “Portable flush toilets will also continue to be provided upon request and the maintenance of other alternative sanitation types will continue.”

Dr Barnes, however, warned that South Africa doesn’t have enough water to give everyone flush toilets. “Our water sources are limited.”

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