Hybrid Chapter Event | 14 November 2023

Systems engineering in municipalities – the next frontier

The chapter event will be registered for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credits with ECSA.


Municipalities are complex organisations, mandated by law to deliver services at the local government sphere. These organisations are operated as independent entities with business contracting capabilities. The legal framework within which these organisations must operate, is fairly well developed in South Africa.

It is an accepted fact that municipalities are not all well-managed – the reports from the Auditor-General provide insight into some of the issues. But an analysis of the situation at South African municipalities is that the political forces rejected the old way of management and left the management of these entities to their own to find measures and management mechanisms to understand what needs to be controlled and how.

Various organisations were established with the intention to provide insight and contribute towards improving the situation, but more needs to be done. The central government departments that effectively were mandated to provide oversight and support and therefore the responsibility for improving the management of municipalities, National Treasury and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), seem to not provide adequate input to resolve the issues experienced.

Municipalities are complex organisations. An initial investigation into the possible business functions of a municipality is provided in the diagram below. This is not the exhaustive list since, for example, some municipalities operate an airport.

Compare to the list of Municipal specific business functions with Part B of Schedules 4 and 5 of the Constitution.

Resolving the challenges will require an approach to management systems that would mobilise modern systems and management tools and techniques. Management tools are required to deliver governance systems to control and understand the mandate of each business function and identify and apply systems tools and techniques to control and understand the operational systems of the municipality.

It is time to mobilise and convince the best young brains to consider the municipality as the next “area of interest” to apply tools and techniques– perhaps by working towards an INCOSE SA Workgroup on systems engineering in municipalities.

Next steps