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What has trust got to do with it? Non-payment of service charges in local authorities in South Africa

By Odd-Helge Fjeldstad


A major financial problem in many municipalities in South Africa is the inadequate collection of service charges due to widespread non-payment. The prevailing view is that non-compliance is caused by poverty and the existence of an 'entitlement culture'. However, huge variations in compliance exist both within poor communities and between communities with similar socio-economic characteristics. How can these differences be explained? Moreover, what factors determine citizens' compliance? This paper argues that non-payment is not only related to inability to pay and 'a culture of entitlement', but also to whether citizens perceive the local government to act in their interest. In particular, three dimensions of trust may affect citizens' compliance: (1) trust in the local government to use revenues to provide expected services; (2) trust in the authorities to establish fair procedures for revenue collection and distribution of services; and (3) trust in other citizens to pay their share.Public finance Service charges Trust Local government South Africa

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