Emily van Rijswijck
The Gauteng Premier's Hotline was formally launched on 2 February by the province’s premier Nomvula Mokonyane.
It joins a number of dedicated government-run call centres across the country, all aimed at dealing with service delivery challenges.
The official launch comes after a year-long pilot phase. Based on the number of calls dealt with, and the high success rate of the pilot project, the premier was convinced that the need for such a centre is critical to the administration of the province.
Since the pilot's inception in March 2011 the hotline has handled 95 000 calls.
Making the announcement at the Grace Bible Church in Soweto, Mokonyane said the move to create a dedicated hotline just for Gauteng residents became necessary after it was clear that most calls received by the Presidential hotline, which was launched in September 2009, were emanating from this province.
To give greater impetus to the effort, she has ensured that memoranda of understanding were signed with all departments, municipalities and government agencies in the province.
The hotline is toll-free and is available from 7am to 10 pm, Monday to Friday. Manned by 70 professional operators, it handles on average about 400 calls per day – nearly 9 000 per month.
The South African government publishes on its website a list of governmental hotline numbers available to residents.
A more responsive public service
Mokonyane made special mention of the hotline during the opening of the Gauteng Legislature, which took place on 20 February in Pretoria.
"As part of our efforts to ensure a more caring and responsive public service, we recently launched the Gauteng Premier’s Hotline, which is linked up with all municipalities, departments and agencies," she said.
Overall performance and resolution of queries are satisfactory, but with room for improvement. Of all calls logged, 70% are resolved, 30% of these at departmental and municipal level, she said.
The hotline aims to attend to all queries within three days of receiving a complaint.
"The feedback we received since the soft launch period indicates a reasonable level of satisfaction amongst the callers,” said Mokonyane, “and enthusiasm at the professionalism demonstrated by our call centre agents."
Among the most common issues raised were electricity cuts and installation; health care; housing; the billing systems of municipalities in general; and fraud and corruption. General customer services such as long queues at frontline desks were also mentioned.
"We endeavour to improve these and speed up the response time," Mokonyane promised at the launch.
She requested residents to first exhaust existing channels of assistance within the provincial government, before resorting to the hotline.
Cutting down on red tape
In July 2011, the Western Cape provincial government opened an innovative unit to assist small businesses in the region with red tape-related issues.
The Red Tape to Red Carpet programme falls under the Department of Western Cape Economic Development and Tourism and aims to help small entrepreneurs and businesses overcome stumbling blocks in the regulatory environment.
Speaking about the new unit in her State of the Province Address 2012, Western Cape premier Helen Zille said the aim of the unit is to eradicate as much red tape as possible.
"We have also established an inter-governmental working group to identify and tackle key regulatory bottlenecks at both a provincial and municipal level,” she said. “In addition, we have established a red tape call centre that began operating in July last year."
So far the call centre has dealt with 140 cases of which two-thirds have already been resolved, while the others have required high-level action.
The call centre is linked to a task team of officials working in and outside of the government, and includes representatives from six provincial departments, the City of Cape Town, the South African Local Government Association, Business Western Cape and the Cape Chamber of Commerce.
"Based on the nature of complaints received we are also conducting investigations into red tape in four key areas: fine foods processing, immigration, the solar water geysers replacement policy, and property development issues," said Zille.
The unit is also tracking small- and medium-sized companies in various stages of start-up to establish where the greatest challenges lie.
According to Zille, the Western Cape is the top performing province in terms of call resolution rates since the inception of the presidential hotline.
While the average resolution rate for provinces, as calculated by the Presidency itself, is 25.5%, the Western Cape achieved an average resolution rate in excess of 80%.