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Inter-governmental relations and planning in government

    ‘Inter-governmental relations’ means the relationships between the three spheres of government. The South African Constitution states, ‘the three spheres of government are distinctive, interdependent and interrelated’. Provincial and local government are spheres of government in their own right, and are not a function or administrative implementing arm of national or provincial government. Although the three spheres of government are autonomous, they exist in a unitary South Africa and they have to work together on decision-making and must co-ordinate budgets, policies and activities, particularly for those functions that cut across the spheres.

    What’s in this guide?

  1. Cooperative governance

Cooperative governance means that the three spheres of government should work together (cooperate) to provide citizens with a comprehensive package of services. The Constitution states that the three spheres have to assist and support each other, share information and coordinate their efforts.

Implementation of policies and government programmes require close cooperation between the spheres of government, especially at Executive level.

Local government is represented in the National Council of the Provinces and other important institutions like the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC). The FFC is an independent body that is set up under the Constitution to advise government on the portion of revenue that should go to provincial and local government to subsidise services for poor people (the equitable share).

The Division of Revenue Act (DORA) lays down how the total government income (revenue) should be divided and allocated between the spheres of government and within government. Local government is also represented on the Budget Council where the Minister of Finance discusses the proposed budget with provincial and local government.

The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) is the official representative of local government. SALGA has nine provincial offices. Local municipalities join SALGA at provincial level. Executive elections and decisions on policies and programmes happen at provincial or national general meetings. SALGA is also an employers' organisation for all municipal workers, and sits as the employer in the South African Local Government Bargaining Council. SALGA’s main source of funding is membership fees payable by municipalities.

The different spheres of government depend on each other for support in project implementation, and regular communication is essential. For example, when a municipality proposes the development of a new township in its Integrated Development Plan, health and education services have to be provided by provincial government. Water services have to be provided by national government, and finances for housing development have to be transferred from national to provincial government from where it goes to the housing developers approved by the municipality.

  1. Intergovernmental relations

In 2005, the Inter-governmental Relations Framework Act was passed to make sure that the principles in Chapter Three of the Constitution on cooperative government are implemented. The Act seeks to set up mechanisms to coordinate the work of all spheres of government in providing services, alleviating poverty and promoting development. The Act also establishes a line of communication that goes from municipalities to the provinces and directly to the Presidency.

Inter-governmental Structures at National Level

The President’s Coordinating Council (PCC) is the main coordinating body at national level. It consists of the President, the Deputy President, key Ministers, Premiers and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). The PCC meets regularly to oversee the implementation of national policies and legislation, and to ensure that national, provincial and local development strategies are aligned to each other.

At national level, each department has an Inter-governmental Forum where Ministers meet with MECs and SALGA. These forums are called MinMECs and are also attended by heads of departments, as technical advisors. The purpose of MinMECs is to consult, coordinate implementation and align programmes at national and provincial level.

Provincial Inter-governmental Structures

The Premier in each province is responsible for coordinating relationships between national, provincial and local government in the province. A Premier’s Inter-governmental Forum (PIF) consists of the Premier, the local government MEC, other MECs, Metro and District Mayors and other Mayors where necessary. The PIF meets regularly and consults on broad development in the province, as well as on the implementation of national and provincial policy and legislation. It also seeks to coordinate the alignment of provincial and municipal development planning and strategic planning. The PIF reports through the Premier to the PCC.  PIF meetings are usually preceded by PAF (Provincial Advisory Forum) meetings where provincial heads of departments meet with all municipal managers.

Further optional forums can be established by the Premier. In the Western Cape, for example there is a Metro Inter-governmental Forum (MIF) where the Provincial Cabinet meets with the Cape Town Mayoral Committee on a regular basis. The reason for this is that around 70% of the provincial population lives in the Metro, and most of the economic and urban development is taking place in that area. There is therefore a huge overlap between the Metro’s budget and responsibilities and those of the Province.

Inter-governmental forums may also be established at district level, where they would consist of the District Mayor and Local Council Mayors.

Joint implementation and disputes

In many development projects, more than one sphere of government may be involved in implementation. Where necessary, the different organs of state may enter into an implementation protocol that describes the role and responsibility of each organ of state; outlines priorities and desired outcomes; and provides for monitoring, evaluation, resource allocation and dispute settlement procedures.

Any organ of state may declare an inter-governmental dispute. They must ensure that every reasonable effort has been made to avoid or settle the dispute before declaring it. Different organs of state cannot institute judicial proceedings against each other unless an inter-governmental dispute has been declared, and all efforts have been made to resolve the dispute. Once a dispute has been declared, organs of state must designate a facilitator and resolve the dispute.

It is very important for the principles of cooperative government, as contained in the Constitution, to be respected and observed by all spheres of government. It is highly undesirable for different spheres of government to take each other to court. The Inter-governmental Relations Act has been set up to facilitate cooperation and avoid legal proceedings between different spheres of government.

Inter-governmental relations go beyond the Act, and the Municipal Finance Management Act also requires consultation in the budgeting and planning process. At provincial level, technical committees should meet regularly to facilitate contact between departments and municipalities and to make sure that there is an alignment of planning priority strategies and resources between provincial and municipal government.

It is not enough for discussion to take place at PIF – regular contact is necessary to ensure that development is coordinated, fast-tracked, and that obstacles are removed where they impede delivery. This requires ongoing communication and open lines between the different spheres of government.

  1. The government programme and planning in government

All government programmes are developed based on the laws and policies that are made by Parliament. The majority party in Parliament bases its policy input on the policies that are made at party conferences.

The Cabinet, as the executive of government, meets each year in a Lekgotla to develop goals and plans for the year and to assess progress made in the previous year.

Once Cabinet has set the broad goals and strategies, the Directors General (DGs) of all departments and provinces come together to make more concrete plans. They meet in a structure called Forum of South African Directors General (FOSAD). Every Director General has to make sure that their department has clear implementation plans and that these will help to meet the overall goals of government for that year. Concrete plans are presented to Cabinet and also to Parliament, usually in the Budget Vote for that Ministry.

The budget drawn up by Treasury has to take these plans into account and no plans can be finally approved unless there is funding available for them. Treasury develops a medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) for every three year period so that departments can see more or less how much money they can plan to spend in the medium term.

The President and Cabinet are responsible for overall monitoring and for making sure that plans are implemented. They use mechanisms like the MINMECs, where all MECs meet with the Minister, and the Presidential Coordinating Committee, where the President meets with all Premiers and some Ministers.

Provincial intergovernmental forums (PIFs) are used to ensure cohesion between local and provincial government plans.

Every department, and every unit within a department, has to develop implementation and action plans based on the overall strategic plan of government. Apart from the Annual Performance Plan, every department also has to develop a Service Delivery Improvement Plan.

  1. Integrated development plan (IDP)

Every municipality has to draw up an Integrated Development Plan (IDP). An IDP is a super-plan that gives a framework for development. It tries to address the needs of the people in the area, draws in stakeholders and other spheres of government and plans for infrastructure and local economic development.

It aims to co-ordinate the work of local and other spheres of government in a coherent plan to improve the quality of life for all the people living in an area. It should take into account the existing conditions and problems and resources available for development. The plan should look at economic and social development for the area as a whole. It must set out a framework for how land should be used, what infrastructure and services are needed and how the environment should be protected.

Local government must deliver services, provide facilities and build healthy and safe communities. Municipal areas are large and within each municipality there are many different communities with different needs. Municipal services cannot be delivered in bits and pieces: for example, if a new housing settlement is planned it has to be supplied with roads, sewage, schools, houses, water, electricity, parks, waste removal, streetlights, public transport, health services, etc. Each of these come from a different department and sometimes even a different sphere of government and each of these have to be paid for out of some department’s budget.

There are many opportunities for government, business, communities and organisations to influence service delivery plans during the different phases of drawing up the IDP. The IDP has to be drawn up in consultation with local forums and stakeholders.

The final IDP document has to be approved by the council.

Once the IDP is drawn up, all municipal planning and projects should happen in terms of the IDP. The annual council budget should be based on the IDP. National and provincial government departments working in the area should consider the municipal IDP when making their own plans.

After every local government election, the new council has to decide on the future of the IDP. The council can adopt the existing IDP or develop a new IDP that takes into consideration existing plans.

IDPs are reviewed each year. The IDP is the most important planning document of any municipality and provides information that is very useful for all organised civil society and public servants who work with local government.


Government and the Constitution  |   The three spheres of government   |  Elections in South Africa   |  Local government elections  |   Party agent’s guide for national elections  |   Intergovernmental relations and planning | Policy and law making process | Vision and key programmes of government | Government spending and Income | Economic development and AsgiSA | The developmental state | Government accountability and public participation | SA and the world | The Public Service | Batho Pele | Combating corruption in government

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