Improving the Integrity of Income Data for Realistic Planning and Informed Public Assistance Provision
City: uMngeni, South Africa
Reporting to: Integrated Development Planning Manager
The City of uMngeni has an obligation to provide public assistance to low-income residents. However, city leadership believes that they currently lack accurate information on both the number of residents needing assistance and the extent of their need. This is further complicated by a workforce in flux and by the difficulty of verifying local income data against national data (collected during the Census). This impacts the city’s ability to provide public assistance commensurate with need and to identify the gap between funds allocated from the national government vs. funds needed. Mayor Pappas and senior leadership aim to improve accuracy and reliability of income data to ensure that public assistance reaches those in need.1 This aligns with the broader mayoral priority of building a foundation for data-informed decision-making. Specifically, leadership looks to improve how reliable the data are and how they are used for planning, monitoring progress, and performance improvement.
Currently, the city has access to income data from several sources: the national Census collected every five years by Statistics South Africa and the city’s own data collection on property ownership and valuation, updated every four years for property tax purposes (both general valuations and supplementary valuations are updated). City officials believe that the national data are not always accurate and up to date. Moreover, they see the need for more frequently collected and reliable local data. They also see the need for automating local data collection methods; much of the data collection is on paper forms that are then entered into a system back at the office. As part of their Integrated Development Planning (IDP) process, the city has instituted some limited and informal data verification processes to support inputs made by councilors or the public.2 In addition, city officials conduct indigency registration campaigns through door-to-door visits. Also, Khulumanathi programs (which refers to resident engagement with the IDP & Budget Public consultation process) by the mayor also put strong focus on data collection. Invitations to these resident engagement sessions are sent with city notices to residents regarding their taxes and city services. But this form of notice is limiting for several reasons: a large percentage of the population does not receive bills and people change their email addresses and contact numbers frequently without notifying the municipality. Thus, contact records are inaccurate and out of date. City leadership also wants to take advantage of the upcoming “national voter registration” process (voter registration) to get an accurate resident count.3
The summer fellow will work with key internal and external stakeholders who collect and use data to design a system for collecting income data, using and analyzing data, ongoing data management, and a performance review plan. Key internal stakeholders and partners on this work include departments that both collect these data and rely on these data being reliable, like the finance department, the revenue unit, and the billing and valuations section. Additional stakeholders to engage include staff from the youth office, communications office, traffic department and the mayor’s office; these offices have the potential to collect data given their constant public engagements. Key external stakeholders include the ward committees and assistants to ward councilors who are informing the development and the implementation of the IDPs; additional potential external stakeholders include non-profits and other government agencies.
How might the city improve and align its income data collection efforts?
How might the city ensure timely and accurate data collection of income and its ongoing management?
How might the city best use and analyze data (including commonly used visualizations)?
How might the city ensure that income data can be linked across various data collection efforts?
What You’ll Do
To address these questions, the fellow will engage with the key internal and external stakeholders identified above.
Key Deliverables Include:
- Inventory and assessment of current sources and methods of income data collection; identification of gaps, inconsistencies, and challenges with data collection.
- Income data collection (including potential automation), management methodology, and a plan including data cleaning and analysis techniques, review and quality assurance processes, and performance management processes.
- Presentation of draft plan and recommendations to the key stakeholders, including the mayor.
What You’ll Bring
The fellow will be expected to possess the following skills:
- Data analysis
- Qualitative interviewing and analysis
- Financial modeling
- Mapping (GIS)
- Design Thinking
- Writing and editing
1 The focus here is on a stream of data that allows the city to assess the indigency of a household. In other words, their need for government provided free basic service and other assistance.
2 Like many South African cities, uMngeni uses an Integrated Development Planning (IDP) approach. IDP is an approach to planning that involves the entire municipality and its citizens in improving service delivery and finding the best solutions to long-term development. It is an overarching plan for an area that gives an overall framework for development and aims to coordinate the work of local and other spheres of government into a coherent plan. Ward councilors and members of the ward development committees, who are directly elected from among their local communities, undergo training in local area planning in preparation for the process.
3 The voter registration program is used by the country’s IEC (Independent Electoral Commission), which is preparing for the 2024 National & Provincial Elections.