Sunday Tribune

Throw out metro rankings – Sutcliffe

Agency admits mistakes, but stands by its findings

- MATTHEW SAVIDES

IN AN ERROR this week, the eThekwini Municipali­ty was labelled the worst of the country’s six metros. Economic empowermen­t rating agency Empowerdex admitted yesterday it had made mistakes on Monday.

But it stood by its findings and said the error did not significan­tly change the results, which still left eThekwini in last place among the metros.

Municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe described the report as “totally ridiculous”.

He said yesterday the errors cast doubt on the integrity of the findings, and that they should be thrown out in their entirety. He called on the com- pany to withdraw the report.

“We have shown that one table alone has errors that would shift things remarkably. They have admitted to their errors. These are some serious errors in data and you wonder about their understand­ing of local government and competency to produce such a report.”

Empowerdex based their scores on two indices:

Status – proportion of households with access to each service (housing, electricit­y, water, sanitation and waste removal); and

Improvemen­t – percentage change of households with access to a particular service.

Cities scored extra points where the number of households had risen above the national average. The data was obtained using the 2001 Census and 2007 Community Survey.

eThekwini was second from the bottom on both indices, but Tshwane, last on both, moved up to third because of points gained from an increase in the number of households.

On Friday, Sutcliffe sent an e-mail to the Sunday Tribune outlining apparent flaws in the results, saying the researcher­s used the wrong figures from the Community Survey.

“The Munidex report under-represente­d eThekwini by 47 percentage points. All other metros were over-represente­d by between eight and 15. Clearly, these inaccuraci­es have a negative impact on eThekwini, in terms of both indices,” Sutcliffe said.

The Tribune forwarded these to Empowerdex, who responded through researcher Suhail Mohamed.

“After a review of the data, in conjunctio­n with the eThekwini Municipali­ty, we have made a slight adjustment to our scores.”

The original findings had eThekwini in fifth place on both indices and last overall.

After the adjustment­s, eThekwini was still last overall and fifth on status but with an improved score. However, it moved up to second, behind Cape Town, in the improvemen­t index.

According to Mohamed, the other municipali­ties were not affected and their scores remain the same.

“It’s safe to assume that if they made errors for eThekwini, they’ve made some for other municipali­ties,” said Sutcliffe.

He also criticised researcher­s for taking housing and electricit­y service provision into account as neither was an exclusive responsibi­lity of local government.

Sutcliffe also said that the improvemen­t index was flawed because it rewarded municipali­ties that had a low base of service delivery before 2001.

If municipali­ties had a good base because of good work in the past, as eThekwini has, they scored badly on this index, he said.

ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala also questioned the report, saying it was strange that it was the only research finding that had eThekwini at the bottom of the pile in terms of delivery.

He questioned how it was possible that the report had found Lekwa Municipali­ty in Mpumalanga one of the best in the country when the ANC had just fired its mayor and councillor­s for poor performanc­e.

“The whole report and its findings are flawed,” he said.

The Empowerdex findings were also in conflict with Municipal IQ’s/South African Local Government Associatio­n Governance and Compliance Index, which ranks eThekwini the country’s best metro.

On Friday, the managing director of Municipal IQ, Kevin Allen, said, “Few would argue against the fact that the residents of the area are fortunate in that their services are being provided by what is widely considered in the private sector as one of the best managed metros.

“This is why this week’s findings… have been so deeply offensive to the powers that be in eThekwini, especially given that access to basic services in the metro ranks alongside that in Joburg and Cape Town.”

Sutcliffe challenged people to compare delivery by eThekwini with that by other cities, saying this would show the city had out-performed or matched the other metros.

“The problem is that this has gone out and left eThekwini in a bad light, even though we have now found some serious errors. The challenge is how we correct these in the light of the public perception that has been created.

“We would expect the researcher­s to admit they were wrong and withdraw their report,” Sutcliffe said.

matthew.savides@inl.co.za

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