Manning Presidential Hotline no child's play

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

For presidential hotline Public Liaison Officer, Mkholwane Maraba, ensuring that members of the public receive the best possible assistance is her number one priority.

Maraba handles every call with a smile on her face and even though the caller cannot see her, she says the warmth and the manner in which she deals with all the calls, assures each caller that she will deal with their enquiry efficiently and professionally.

Maraba heeded President Jacob Zuma's call when he said: "Smile when you take those calls as people can feel your mood wherever they are. Your attitude will speak volumes." And Maraba's attitude has definitely taken her a long way.

The presidential hotline was launched on 14 September as part of government's drive to change the way it works.

"We wanted to establish a culture of taking citizens seriously and putting them first in our work as government. The presidential hotline provides an appeal mechanism for citizens whose complaints have not been attended to satisfactorily by other spheres of government or department," the Presidency said this week.

"The job is extremely hectic and at times can be stressful, but getting positive feedback and when we see results and have numerous success stories, you really feel great," said Maraba.

She said while some callers can get anxious, she remains calm and tries to deal with the situation to the best of her ability.

She said: "We deal with many issues, including those of service delivery, abuse, unfair dismissals, unemployment and corruption. At times people can get impatient, but we advise on the way forward and keep calm. But, through it all, I do enjoy what I do."

For, Patrick Mdluli, receiving positive feedback from members of the public makes his job worthwhile.

"This is the heart of the presidential hotline," said Mdluli. "I receive correspondence from members of the public, the information is analysed and then captured onto the system and is then routed to the Public Liaison Officers in provinces. We follow up cases to get an update on the progress that has been made and we give clients feedback to ensure that they are satisfied."

Mdluli, who has been with the presidential hotline since it was launched, said although the issues that he often deals with are complex, he tries his level best to ensure that he looks for immediate action and handles every call as if the president was on the line.

"I enjoy dealing with people which makes my job that much easier. When I interact with people and I sound happy and willing to help with their enquiry, they also have confidence in me. I try my level best to ensure that everyone I interact with feels happy and great after our conversation," said Mdluli.

Government is currently looking at integrating its existing call centres to reduce the load on the Hotline.

Since its launch, the Hotline has been inundated with calls, making the load heavy to deal with.

According to the quarterly update on the Presidential Hotline between September 14 and November 27, there were 30 650 calls to the hotline of which 9 190 cases were resolved.

A study, led by the Department of Public Service and Administration, is currently underway to determine the functioning and effectiveness of all government call centres.

"Through it, we want to achieve greater efficiencies and integration of government call centres, thus resulting in better citizen care and enhanced interaction between government and our citizens," the Presidency said.

In the first month of the hotline operation, only 12 percent of the opened calls with provinces were resolved, 26 percent of calls in October and 31 percent in November. Overall, only 18 percent of total calls opened with provinces in the past three months were resolved.

With the national departments, in September only 19 percent of calls opened were resolved. However, the average response over the past three months is 33 percent.

"The President has directed all ministers and premiers to prepare turnaround strategies. Each department and premier's office must indicate what will be done to ensure that all enquiries transferred to them for investigation are responded to urgently and efficiently," said the Presidency.

The Presidency has treated this financial year as a pilot phase and will continue to improve the service and deal with whatever bottlenecks still remain.

"It is an effective service and we are daily encouraged by the excitement of people whose enquiries have been resolved."

The Minister in the Presidency, Collins Chabane, is working with departments to ensure that the situation is resolved without delay and that departments put more effective mechanisms and resources to respond to enquiries.

He is also working to ensure that the service performs better at a technical and human resource level.