Legislation, administrative change and service provision in South African municipalities, 1995--2000: A study of institutional reform

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Larry Schroeder


Legislation, Administrative change, Service provision, South African, Municipalities, Institutional reform

Subject Categories

African Studies | Economic Policy | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


Governments around the developing world are increasingly using institutional means to reform local governments. These reforms typically take the shape of legal requirements for municipal adoption of administrative and participatory mechanisms. This paper investigates the effect of such requirements on service expenditure allocations in South African local governments during the 1995-2000 period. South African municipalities, generally faced with a need (and legal requirement) to expand services, had varying levels of de facto administrative and participations mechanism adoption and service expenditure expansion in this period. The research examines whether those municipalities that adopted the administrative and participatory reforms required in legislation were also the municipalities with high rates of service expenditure expansion.

New institutional arguments are applied to the South African situation to develop hypotheses about the expected affects of de facto administrative and participatory mechanism adoption on service expenditure expansion. The hypotheses reflect both a rational new institutional argument--that institutions affect transactions costs, incentives and hence outcomes--as well as a cultural argument--that institutions affect values, beliefs and preferences, which influence social outcomes. Such arguments also form the basis of hypotheses regarding the variation in de facto institutional adoption.

To test these hypotheses, a two stage model is developed and tested using cross sectional data emanating from a survey of municipal governments conducted in July 2000. The results of the two stage analysis are compared with evidence from case study reports generated by the German development agency GTZ in 1999. The statistical and case-based evidence indicates that municipalities that adopted the administrative and participatory reforms had higher levels of service expenditure expansion in the period. The evidence also indicates key influences on the adoption of both mechanism types, including relational influences (whereby top-down intergovernmental pressure and bottom-up citizen pressure affected the levels of administrative and participatory mechanism adoption respectively) and cultural influences (whereby municipalities with professional and innovative cultures adopted both mechanism types more readily). The results suggest that there are mixed rational and cultural institutional effects in evidence in the South African situation.


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