On the 23rd of August 2017, residents from Thembelihle Informal Settlement submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request to Johannesburg Water ahead of a social audit on sanitation.

According to Section 18 (1) of the PAIA Act No. 2 of 2000, Johannesburg Water has thirty (30) days to respond.

In Thembelihle, and the broader Region G, sanitation was a priority service delivery submission to the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) draft for the 2017/2018 budget. In the submissions, residents demanded for flushing toilets and a sustainable water supply which is a dire need for their everyday survival.

Sometimes the contractor solicits for payment in exchange for cleaning our toilets yet they are paid to be serving us in our community. These VIP toilets are unstable, have a stench and are a health hazard. We were never educated on how to take care of them and you cannot rely on the user manuals that come with these toilets. In some cases, you find about 12 people sharing one toilet which is not cleaned efficiently due to the irregular disludging,” said Lebohang Mthembu, the coordinator for sanitation in Thembelihle Crisis Committee.

The Crisis Committee, together with Planact has identified the need to conduct a social audit on sanitation and has requested for full service agreements with Supreme Sanitation; documents related to tender number JW OPS 04/13; for the extension of the contract and the hire of vacuum tankers; and tender number JW OPS 04/16, for the hire of vacuum tankers for the desludging of pits and VIP toilets.

“It was great feeling for us, as the community, when we hand-delivered the PAIA request documents, ourselves, at the Joburg Water offices. We need accountability on services delivered to us and it gives us confidence to be hands on. This is what we call participatory democracy…,” said Bhayiza Miya, a community leader from Thembelihle Informal Settlement.

The social audit on sanitation aims to improve the quality of engagement between government officials responsible for the delivery of sanitation services, and Thembelihle residents receiving those services. It also aims to improve the quality of sanitation service delivery to Thembelihle informal settlement.

Social auditing is a tool that is used to monitor service delivery, and enable engagement between government and communities on the findings of these monitoring efforts. Research shows that this engagement can result in improved service delivery by giving government information about local circumstances and the performance of contractors. In the process, social audits can also create a healthy channel of communication between government and residents.