A payment culture framework for municipal services in the North West Province
Payment for municipal services in South Africa, especially in the North West province, has been a contentious issue as consumer debt keeps on escalating despite the managerial measures taken by municipal role-players to stop debt accruals. The purpose of this study was to identify the factors that could enhance payment compliance for municipal services, as well as to propose a payment culture framework for municipal services. The Systems Theory, Contingency Theory of Leadership, Social Contract Theory, Decision Making Theory, Theory of Planned Behaviour and the Agency Theory underpinned this study. A pragmatic research paradigm was adopted which views research design as a pluralistic approach that espouses available methods to unravel solutions to the study problem. In this regard, a non-empirical and empirical study was applied to seek solutions to the problem under investigation. A convergent parallel mixed methods research approach was applied and incorporated both quantitative and qualitative components. Residents living within the municipal areas of four local municipalities in the province, municipal role-players, councilors, as well as traditional leaders were involved in this study. Data was collected using a structured questionnaire for the quantitative component and face-to-face interviews for the qualitative component. Data was analysed using SPSS and Atlas-ti respectively. Findings obtained from the study indicate vast opportunities for municipalities to strategically enhance payment compliance. It was discovered that fiscal exchange is the most influential factor to induce residents' inclination to pay for municipal services. Other factors identified to influence payment compliance include deterrence messages, social influence, payment education, budget transparency, service administration, traditional leadership, communication dynamics and adoption of emerging innovation options. Findings from both quantitative and qualitative datasets indicate that there is a lack of collaboration between municipal role-players and politicians resulting in administrative versus political dichotomy. It was revealed that politicians have the culture of giving unresolved promises to residents before getting into power which they do not passably fulfil resulting in suspicion of looting public funds. These and other reasons have ensued in payment default and non-payment for municipal services. With regard to these findings, it is recommended that municipalities should provide adequate services to residents and initiate payment enforcement measures, communication dynamics and emerging sustaining innovation options to facilitate payment compliance. The study recommends that politicians should understand the financial capacity of the municipality before giving residents high expectations towards service delivery. More so, it is recommended that municipal role players should ensure adequate collaboration with traditional leaders, councilors, other influential role-players in communities, as well as government and non-governmental entities to enhance payment compliance amongst residents in an endeavour to create a responsible payment culture for municipal services in the North West province.