Govt working to iron out Hotline problems

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma says government is working to address the challenges posed by the high volume of calls to the Presidential Hotline.

"One of the greatest challenges has been the high volume of calls, with the result that some people have not been able to get through. We are working to address this challenge to ensure that we give every call the attention it deserves," said the President.

He said the fact that some people could not get through to the hotline should not be viewed as a problem but a success as it indicated a high number of people wanted to voice their concerns to their government.

The President was speaking at the official launch of the toll-free hotline, which can be reached on 17737.

The hotline, where members of the public can lodge a complaint about service delivery or ask general questions, is aimed at increasing access to government.

Zuma said the pilot phase, which began on 14 September, had allowed the call centre operators to test the hotline systems and address whatever hitches had come up ahead of the official launch on Wednesday.

He said the functioning of the call centre was continually being improved on the basis of the lessons learnt. "We will continue to improve the service each day until we reach a stage where each South African is able to obtain quality service with ease as it should be."

The hotline received 27 000 calls on day one, with almost 2 500 calls received in the first hour, and 7 000 by the third hour.

"This showed that the service was long overdue," he said, adding that common queries and complaints across all provinces had related to housing, water and electricity.

The President said staff at the call centre had been instructed to treat each call as if it was the only one, and work with the caller until the problem was resolved.

"That on its own reduces the number of calls they can take each day. The agents spend 10 to 15 minutes on one call."

He urged members of the public to refrain from calling the hotline if they did not have a serious query and to first take up their service delivery complaints with their local and provincial structures before approaching the hotline.

Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, who attended the event, congratulated the President for the initiative saying it would make a real and tangible difference to the way in which South Africa's public representatives perform in government.

"This hotline is a promise made and promise kept."

Sisulu believed this was a progressive step towards curbing red-tape in service delivery and fighting corruption. He further said accountability was one of the cornerstones of good governance and the hotline represented a commitment to that principle.

Before the launch, Zuma visited the centre where he interacted with the staff and asked them about the challenges they encountered on a daily basis.