Social audit on refuse collection and area cleaning in informal settlements finds key shortcomings with delivery of service

Allegations that SJC is “destabilizing service delivery” fail to engage with main issues of social audit


The provision of essential services such as refuse collection in informal settlements is increasingly outsourced to private service providers. When this is done, the municipal government is legally bound to ensure a service standard in line with national laws and regulations.

The SJC has been consistently engaging with Mayor Patricia de Lille and many other City officials on serious problems with various private contractors – including those providing refuse collection services – dating back more than two years. On many occasions City officials – including the Mayor – have agreed that the City is not doing enough to monitor performance, and have promised to take remedial action. In May 2012, Mayor de Lille stated publicly in reference to poor outsourced refuse collection services that “the quality of the service (in informal settlements) is dropping because there’s no monitoring from the City’s side”.

Public hearing and social audit key findings

On Saturday, 5 October, the SJC hosted a public hearing on the outcomes of a social audit on refuse collection and area cleaning by private contractors to Khayelitsha’s informal settlements. The social audit – held between 30 September and 4 October – highlighted several shortcomings in the provision and monitoring of this most basic service; violations of the rights to dignity, health, equality, and access to a healthy and safe environment; and potentially large-scale wasteful expenditure.

At the hearing, participants of the social audit presented their findings based on the audit’s training, verification and interviews. Community members gave testimony of their own experiences in relation to this service and the consequences faced where provision is inadequate.

Representatives from the City of Cape Town were given the opportunity to respond and an independent panel consisting of representatives from the media, public health, the faith-based community and civil society listened to the testimonies and provided analysis.

The audit found that:

-           No residents receive door-to-door refuse collection, notwithstanding that this is a stipulation of the Service Delivery Agreements (SDA) and is a service that the City claims to exist across the City.

-           Waste collection from shipping containers only happens once a week and not twice a week as per the SDAs and the City’s claims.

-           On average residents received only 6 of the 8 plastic bags that they are entitled to every month. Many residents only got 2 or 3plastic bags in a month. This means that of the 3.68 million bags in the last eight months given to contractors by the City, only a portion of them are reaching residents.

-           It is unclear what is happening to the missing bags, but it appears that at least a portion of the bags are being sold to residents rather than being delivered to them. A number of residents claimed to have had to purchase these ‘free’ plastic bags.

-           None of the residents interviewed had ever received pamphlets that describe refuse collection issues or advise them of complaints mechanisms.

-           Workers reported a number of issues including not having received adequate protective clothing – placing them at severe health and safety risk.

(For more detailed findings please refer to the end of the document)

The purpose of the social audit and a response to Councillor Sonnenberg

A social audit is a mechanism that enables communities to participate in the monitoring of services and contributes to ensuring that leaders are held accountable for government expenditure and service provision. The main elements of the audit are the inspection of the contracts between government and the companies; physical verification; and interviewing workers and residents about their experiences of the service. At its core a social audit seeks to improve access to and quality of basic services.

Given this, the SJC notes with concern Mayco Member for Utility Services, Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg’sstatement of 4 October 2013 – echoed at the public hearing – in which he makes serious allegations that the SJC was attempting to “destabilize service delivery” through the social audit. Councillor Sonnenberg alleges that the SJC was “trying to cause unhappiness with workers” and that the SJC “claimed that the money the City is paying contractors is going to the bosses at the cost of the employees’ salaries”.

At no time during the social audit was an attempt made by the SJC to “destabilize service delivery”. On the contrary, through a specific set of questions, and according to the standard protocol of undertaking a social audit, workers were interviewed in order to assess whether the SDAs were being adhered to.


The SJC commends representatives of the City for attending the public hearing (and the audit on 30 September), including Councillor Sonnenberg and Executive Director of Utility Services, Gisela Kaiser. Such interactions are a key element in improving the monitoring and implementation of services and strengthening the relationship between people and government.

The SJC notes the City’s commitment to investigate and respond to the findings once the full report has been issued. It is sincerely hoped that rather than attempting to discredit the process, the City engages with the key issues raised by the audit. Through this, the City may well improve service delivery across Cape Town.

The full report from the social audit – including the consolidated findings, data, community testimonies, and demands – will be submitted to the City of Cape Town and released within the next month.

For more information please contact:

Phumeza Mlungwana                                                                     Axolile Notywala

074 417 8306                                                                                074 386 1584                                                           


Dustin Kramer

083 674 0552





All findings are based on the protocols found in the Service Delivery Agreements that were given to the SJC.


Social Audit coverage:

•             Total number of residents met: 464

•             Total number of workers met: 77

•             Total number of shipping containers inspected: 76

•             Total number of social auditors: 100


Records inspected:

•             Tenders submitted by 7 companies awarded refuse collection contracts

•             Monthly invoices submitted to the City by the appointed contractors

•             Records of plastic bags issued by the City to the contractors

•             Monthly payroll of workers employed by appointed contractors

•             Power point presentations & other records explaining refuse collection policies and programme


Door-to-door refuse collection:


•           None of the residents met receive door-to-door refuse collection – a key service that is supposed to be implemented according to the City of Cape Town and the contracts. This was also consistent with the information given to us by workers.

•           On average waste collection from shipping containers only happens once a week and not twice a week as per City’s service delivery agreement with contractor.

Plastic bags:

•           Although the City has provided more than 3.68 million plastic bags in the last eight months to the contractors who provide refuse collection services, many of these free bags have not been passed to residents.

•           21 residents interviewed during the social audit claimed to have paid for ‘free’ plastic bags.

•           During interviews with residents, we found that on an average a resident obtained only 6 of the 8 plastic bags that they are entitled to every month. Many residents only got 2 or 3 plastic bags in a month.


Cleanliness standards:

•           A large majority of residents interviewed expressed unhappiness with the standards of cleanliness provided by the contractors responsible for refuse collection.

•           None of the City’s weekly inspection records award a cleanliness level 1 as the payment arrangements require. These standards are set by the City and are from levels 1 to 4.

•           Illegal dumping was not found to be a major problem in those containers that were dirty.  Assorted light and small waste was a problem.


Engagement by City of Cape Town with Residents:

•           None of the residents interviewed had ever received pamphlets that describe refuse collection issues or advise them of complaints mechanisms.



•           Most workers interviewed did not have copies of their employment contract and many workers complained that they were not receiving extra wages for working on public holidays.

•           12 out of 77 workers interviewed did not receive rain-suits; 13 workers did not receive safety shoes; 5 workers did not receive overalls; 6 workers did not receive gloves.

•           Where provided, protective gear was not adequate, or replacements were not given once the gear had worn down.

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