Zuma hotline to ring in Chabane's ministry

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pretoria -The presidential hotline will soon be moved to the Presidency's Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation Ministry amid criticism that the hotline is turning into a cold line.

Head of communications in the Presidency, Vusi Mona, on Wednesday said Minister Collins Chabane had started giving input on how the hotline should be integrated into the monitoring and evaluation work that he does.

Mona said the progress of the hotline will also form part of the regular Cabinet meetings with the hope that ministers will be more accountable about complaints registered against their departments.

From a monitoring and evaluation perspective, he said the data collected would tell which national departments, provincial departments and municipalities are getting the most queries. This he said would enable government to proactively identify issues and intervene.

Mona was addressing a media briefing following a multi-party visit by parliamentary chief whips to the hotline in the Union Buildings and the State Information and Technology Centre (SITA) offices in Centurion.

Statistics indicate that in September 2009, when the hotline was launched, it received 232 643 calls while in February 2010 it only received 38 524 - which was attributed to people apparently losing faith in the hotline. By the end of February, 20 000 of the 44 000 logged calls had been resolved.

The chief whips indicated that they were pleased with the hotline and the work it was doing.

ANC chief Whip Mathole Motshekga said he was "amazed" by what the hotline was doing for the ordinary South Africans.

Motshekga said the hotline reveals the character of President Jacob Zuma's administration of doing things.

"The Hotline gives the poor access to government; it ensures that there is a conversation," said Motshekga, who also took time to answer a call.

The PAC's Letlapa Mphahlele said the hotline was another way of "healing the nation".

"What is also important is that people are saying their grievances in their own language."

However, a concern was raised that the hotline needs more staff to ensure that all complaints are attended to.

"The capacity is not what it's supposed to be," Mphahlele said.

Acknowledging that the service delivery backlogs in the country were huge, Motshekga echoed the same sentiments saying they would make recommendations to Parliament the need to increase capacity.

SITA chairperson, Zodwa Manase, welcomed this and asked the delegation to help the organisation access funds, saying they were currently working on a tight budget.

"The more capacity we have, the more calls we will be able to take and more people will be helped."

Twenty-one specially trained Public Liaison Officers at the Union Buildings are supported by a network of 43 Public Liaison Officers at SITA currently handling calls and responding to general public inquiries, complaints over service delivery and questions about government.

The hotline was opened on 27 October 2009. There had been numerous complaints about dropped calls and the time it took for calls to be answered. Mona said complaints about the call centre's service were being addressed.