WRC/SALGA Benchmarking initiative gets off the ground
Most municipalities in South Africa are still failing to meet the drinking water and wastewater regulatory requirements as set out by the Department of Water Affairs. This could partly be due to the fact that many are facing crises on a day-to-day basis which leave no time for systematically setting up standards and working towards them. The re-launch of the WRC/SALGA Benchmarking Partnership opens up opportunities for municipalities to start benchmarking their water service provision operations against criteria that they choose to set for themselves.
A first workshop on the Benchmarking Initiative was organised by IMESA and was held at Birchwood Conference Centre in Benoni on 25 October 2011. A Project on Benchmarking of Water Services has now been reengineered to cater for municipal needs. This is done by the WRC in partnership with SALGA (South African Local Government Association). A 3-year project, which commenced in April 2011, will build on learning from the previous benchmarking initiative. In particular, it will aim to get municipalities to use water services benchmarking to strive for continual performance improvement, while building on the experiences of their peers, in order to make the most efficient use of available resources to improve service delivery and customer services. During the workshop participants learnt about some of the benchmarking achievements, as presented by eThekwini Municipality, iLembe District Municipality, Stellenbosch Municipality and Johannesburg Water.
Why should municipalities consider benchmarking their water services?
According to Carl Loubser of Competitive Capabilities International, the term benchmarking was first coined by shoemakers, who measured people’s feet and then developed a pattern for shoes from these measurements; this allowed for mass production and the accompanying reduction of costs. It is important that municipalities assess their past performance by looking at their mistakes, simply by checking the root causes affecting performance and also by looking at the performance of peers in similar industries. Loubser insists that: “If you don’t measure, you don’t perform.”
“Benchmarking will assist in improving service delivery, operational management and finally contribute to institutional effectiveness through detailed performance measurement and assessment. This assessment should be based on learning from the best performance by peers’ says Neil McLeod, a Benchmarking Ambassador from eThekwini Water and Sanitation Services.
Benchmarking assists municipalities in assessing if customers are well served by checking what other municipalities are doing. For instance, a lot of lessons have been learnt by eThekwini from countries like Canada, which has led to the improvement in many aspects of their water and sanitation service provision. Benchmarking could be a good indicator of how many staff members should be allocated for each operation in a municipality.
Neil McLeod says “we should encourage more municipalities to participate in order to learn from each other, a lot of good ideas are learned from each other”. It solely depends on the municipalities to decide what needs to be measured by looking at what is relevant for them to start measuring. As municipalities are facing crises on a day-to-day basis it is important that they have a vision of where they want to be and should capitalise on that. Some municipalities may not be aware of the problems they are in, which makes it important that they measure themselves against high-performing municipalities.
Aspects that could be considered as key for water services measurement are as follows:
Water demand management
Human resources management and skills development
Service delivery (assessment of backlogs)
Operations and maintenance
It was quoted that National Treasury, states that service delivery is a by-product of effective, efficient and economical processes that are informed by strategic direction, resource planning and implementation, this compels municipalities to improve their operational and business processes. The WRC/SALGA Benchmarking Partnership offers a means to achieve this.
Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org