All systems go for hotline launch

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pretoria - All the necessary infrastructure and systems have been put in place to launch the President's toll free hotline by the end of September.

"The launch of the hotline will be before the end of September. All infrastructure and systems are in place and call centre agents have been trained," said Vusi Mona, Deputy Director General in the Presidency, on Monday.

The R4 million service will allow members of the public to call the President's office at the Union Buildings with any gripe they may have over service delivery or if they have a question about government which they would like answered.

Callers will have the option of being helped in a variety of languages and calls will be recorded and logged for quality, tracking and monitoring purposes. A call log will assist the Presidency in monitoring turnaround times as well as gathering statistics such as which department has received the most complaints.

Mr Mona said he was expecting around 1 500 calls per day. "With the help of the South African State Information Technology Agency (SITA), I'm confident the Presidency has the capacity to deal with it," he said.

Government has been able to use much of SITA's existing infrastructure to set up the service.

The hotline number, which will be operational between 7.30am and 10pm, is expected to be announced by the end of the week.

Twenty one well-informed hotline agents will be dedicated to answering enquiries.

These agents will be supported by a network of Public Liaison Officers. Each department and each province has assigned a Public Liaison Officer who will help deal with enquires that can not be solved by the Presidency alone.

But, some callers may be lucky enough to speak to the President himself. President Jacob Zuma will have a direct link to an online platform where he can take calls directly, depending on his schedule and when he is in his office.

Mr Zuma announced in his State of the Nation Address and Budget Speech earlier this year that he intended setting up a Public Liaison Unit, which would include a toll free hotline to deal with and handle public enquires.

"In this era of renewal, we will move towards a more interactive government...In addition to receiving letters and emails from the public, we will also establish a hotline for easier access," said the President at the time.

Mr Mona said the President had attached a lot of importance to handling each enquiry like it was the only one and following it through all the channels until it receives the attention it deserves.

"This project is very close to the heart of the President, It's one of his pet projects," said Mr Mona.

He said the hotline would become a key service delivery improvement instrument and monitoring and evaluation tool, which was of importance to the new administration.

"The President has indicated that this is not a public relations exercise, but forms part of government's attempts to change the way it operates."