The provision of a Free Basic Sanitation Service to all households in South Africa is not financially viable for all categories of municipalities, a new study by the Water Research Commission concludes.
Mjoli, N., Sykes, G. and Jooste, T. (2009). Towards the realization of free basic sanitation : evaluation, review and recommendations. (WRC report ; no. TT 422/09). Pretoria, South Africa, Water Research Commission. xviii, 91 p. : 16 fig., 8 tab. ISBN 978-1-77005-900-9
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The aim of this study was to assess the experience of municipalities in South Africa in the implementation of free basic sanitation (FBSan) services and to develop economic and financial models for sustainable FBSan service. Based on the findings of the study recommendations were made for improving the delivery of FBSan services to poor.
The study involved a review of national and international literature, and an evaluation of FBSan services in South Africa through eight municipal case studies and a survey in 17 district municipalities.
Two separate modelling exercises were undertaken to explore different aspects of implementing the FBSan strategy:
- using the case studies to investigate the funds likely to be available to the sanitation service within the context of the entire municipal suite of services, and
- using the results of the first modelling exercise, together with desktop cost analysis, to inform a national analysis of the projected operational costs associated with current service level decisions under different operational assumptions.
A review of international and national experience on the provision of subsidized sanitation services to the severely marginalized individuals and groups was conducted to identify good practice. The findings of this review were used as a basis for the development of guidelines for sanitation subsidies for the severely marginalized individuals and groups.
The study provides recommendations for:
- institutional and policy aspects
- demand-side aspects
- subsidy targeting issues
- operational considerations
- financing free basic sanitation services
- technical considerations
- further research
The overall conclusion from the study is that the provision of a Free Basic Sanitation Service to all households is not financially viable for all categories of municipalities. However, FBSan service for poor households is possible in metros because of the strong revenue base and the possibility of cross-subsidies. District municipalities that serve large poor rural populations cannot afford to provide FBSan services because they do not generate sufficient revenue from the user charges, combined with very limited ability to generate local revenues to meet their municipal service obligations.
The findings of the study were presented in 2008, in a paper and a Powerpoint presentation entitled ‘Free Basic Sanitation Services- South African experience’, at the IRC symposium ‘Sanitation for the Urban Poor: Partnerships and Governance’ that was held in Delft, The Netherlands, 19-21 November 2008.