Government admits policy meant to subsidise indigent households has not achieved its intended goals

Government has admitted that the Municipal Indigent Policy framework has not achieved its objectives. The main aim of the policy is to subsidise millions of indigent households to access free basic services such as water, electricity and housing.

Deputy Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Obed Bapela says the policy has experienced a lot of challenges since it was established.

Speaking during a mini-plenary debate in the National Council of Provinces in Parliament, Bapela said some of the main problems facing the indigent support scheme are a lack of awareness and the failure of municipalities in reaching people who are meant to benefit.

“There still remains a challenge in the implementation of the free basic services indigent policy. These challenges are largely manifested, among others, the slow pace of service delivery with regard to access to free basic services by indigent households. Non-indigence accessing the problem and performance measurements for the programme. The service delivery issue that the programme is faced with is the limited access to free basic services by intended beneficiaries,” says Bapela.

According to this plan, all municipalities are required to provide free basic services to indigent households through their revenue collection on the basis of equitable share.

People who qualify are registered on the municipal indigent database. Such people include the elderly, the unemployed and child-headed households among others.

The deputy minister says current figures show 10 million households lived below the affordability threshold between 2019 and 2020.

This figure is higher than the 3.5 million indigent households reported by Stats SA this year.

“From these statistics, it’s clear that most indigenous households are still not registered by the municipalities and are not benefiting from the free basic service subsidy. The reasons that lead to this vary and the following are, amongst many others, most municipalities are using the self-targeting approach waiting for most municipalities to clear their indigent. So, that is the first problem. The municipalities do not go to the people. They wait for the people to come to them. Secondly, most of the indigent people are not even aware of the indigent programme due to a lack of awareness campaigns and communication strategies in most municipalities even in the age of improved technology like your smartphones and television set, where you can see every shack has a dish,” Bapela added.

Bapela says various government departments and entities have to work together for the implementation of the policy to succeed.

“Dirco, provincial COGTA’s, and other relevant sector departments such as National Treasury (have to work together including) the Department of Water and Sanitation, Department of Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries, Department of Energy. The free basic services are funded through the local government equitable share, which is an unconditional grant that supplements the revenue raised by municipalities instituted to address past injustices and provision of basic services,” Bapela explains.

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Source: SABC News (