Measuring Customer Satisfaction with a Municipality's Waste Management Service: A Preliminary Instrument

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The expression of dissatisfaction with failure in service delivery has become an almost daily occurrence in South Africa. Important role players in service delivery are municipalities. The mandate of a municipality, according to the South African Constitution, is to ensure that the service delivery for which it is responsible satisfy citizens' basic needs. These basic services include refuse (waste) removal.

Against this background this study had two primary objectives. The first was to develop an instrument with sound psychometric properties that can be used by municipalities to measure and assess customer satisfaction with a waste management service. The second primary objective was to investigate the satisfaction of residents of a municipality with its waste management services.

The empirical results suggest that the proposed instrument to measure satisfaction with a municipality's waste management service demonstrates sufficient discriminant validity and reliability. However, the instrument is still in need of further development.

INTRODUCTION

The South Africa Government, by its own admission, has not always succeeded in what is commonly referred to as "service delivery". In his address to the National Council of Provinces in 2004, President Thabo Mbeki referred to the results of an audit the government carried out on municipalities, which found that 136 of the 284 municipalities audited had little or no capacity to service their areas. The survey by the Department of Provincial and Local Government found that:

* 203 municipalities had fewer than 60% households with access to sanitation (flush toilet, chemical toilet or septic tank);

* 122 local government structures had fewer than 60% of their households with access to electricity, and

* 155 municipalities had fewer than 60% of households with access to clean water (Mbeki, 2004).

The dissatisfaction with failure in service delivery sometimes leads to violent responses from residents. The most often-cited examples were the violent protests near Diepsloot in July 2004 and similar action near Harrismith in the Eastern Free State in September of the same year. Following these incidents, there were outbreaks of violent protest all over the country during the rest of 2004 and into 2005 (Atkinson, 2007: 54-55).

As recently as February 2008, commuters at four Pretoria Metrorail stations were so dissatisfied with delayed trains that six coaches were torched (Mail&Guardian online, 4 February 2008).

Important role players in service delivery are municipalities. The mandate of a municipality, according to the South African Constitution, is to ensure that the service deliveries for which it is responsible satisfy citizens' basic needs. These basic services are: water supply, sewerage collection and disposal, refuse removal, electricity and gas supply, health services, roads and storm water drainage, street lighting, and municipal parks and recreation (NMMM Integrated Waste Management Plan 2005-2010). Yet, according to Mr Mbeki (2004): "...many of our municipalities, which are central to the implementation of government policies, still do not have the necessary capacity, even where resources are available, to implement government programmes and ensure that there is sustainable delivery of basic services."

The focus of this study was the waste1 management service of municipalities, seeing that the South African government regards the protection and sustainability of the environment and waste management as important parts of service delivery. This focus is of particular importance if one considers the fact that the audit of municipalities by the Department of Provincial and Local Government referred to earlier found that 182 municipalities (of the 284 audited) had fewer than 60% of their households with access to waste (refuse) removal.

WASTE MANAGEMENT

The South African Government has made it clear that one of its strategic goals is to preserve the environment and to ensure that its maintenance is in line with international environmental practices. …