South Africa

SPARK South Africa


SPARK (Strengthening Public Accountability for Results and Knowledge) is an ambitious and innovative global program to arm marginalized groups and activists with the tools necessary to engage in budget processes and affect transformational change in their lives.

In South Africa, SPARK builds the capacity of urban informal settlement residents to engage government to better spend public resources on basic services such as water, electricity and sanitation.

The Problem

The South African population is urbanizing rapidly, and city governments are struggling to provide even the most basic of services to the 20 percent of residents living in informal settlements. Additionally, city governments are not engaging these residents in the governance process, resulting in high levels of service delivery protests. With our partners organizations, IBP South Africa has developed ways to facilitate the engagement of informal settlement residents in the budget process and bring about significant improvements in service delivery.

Our Partners

Planact was originally formed as a voluntary association of professionals in 1985 and has since evolved into a well-established organization working to promote and support settlements and contribute to the local government transformation process.

The Community Organization Resources Center (CORC) is a nucleus for professionals and grassroots activists who think independently yet plan and act collectively. CORC provides support to community networks who mobilize themselves around their own resources and capacities.

Afesis-corplan is a vibrant development NGO that is recognized as pioneers in deepening participatory democracy and good local governance, community development and alternative settlement development approaches since 1992.

Our Work

SPARK and our partners develop the collective agency of informal settlement residents to influence government decision-makers. This includes understanding who in government is responsible for services in their area and what level of services government is supposed to deliver. With this foundational understanding of how budgets impact them and the services they receive, these residents can engage the relevant officials or politicians to improve service delivery.

Case Study: Sanitation Social Audits 

The use of social audits to improve sanitation in South Africa’s informal settlements is an example of how we work with informal settlement residents as well as the intermediaries that support them. Social audits cultivate relationships between governments and communities that are mutually respectful, deeply democratic and address service delivery issues. Residents are trained to obtain budgets and other official documents to identify who is supposed to provide what services according to what terms. They then conduct on-the-ground research to document what is really happening. Based on this information they engage government in an informed and empowered manner.

In 2015, IBP and Planact began helping the Wattville informal settlement near Johannesburg conduct social audits to understand the terms governing the companies hired to provide and service toilets. First, the residents had to find and gain access to the documents that laid out the terms governing the companies hired to provide and service toilets. It was no easy task but with IBP’s strategy of “teaching by doing,” the IBP South Africa team worked with residents and Planact to obtain and scrutinize these documents.

The contract terms were then compared to actual implementation on the ground using three primary survey instruments developed by Planact:

  • A questionnaire for all residents to assess their experience with the toilets
  • A sheet to record observations after physically inspecting the toilets
  • A questionnaire for contract employees hired to service the toilets

Planact’s many years of work resulted in close, productive relationships with the councillors elected to represent the various wards of the city. By demonstrating that it had the support of the councillors and the community, as well as familiarity with the contract, the team was able to enlist the support of the city’s Water and Sanitation Operations Division for audits in 14 settlements. As a result, the contract for sanitation in all 119 informal settlements in the City of Ekurhuleni was rewritten. If properly executed, the new contract will provide dramatically improved sanitation to more than 600,000 residents in 119 informal settlements.

Planact and informal settlement communities now have the skills and experience that will allow them to conduct productive social audits in other communities, and focus on other challenges, as well as be more effective in all phases of its service to constituents.