Civil servants not doing their best to serve

2018-05-06 00:02

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Why do the civil servants who serve us do it so badly? What does it cost the economy to steal hours and hours of citizens’ productive time to renew passports and licences, or getting life-saving medication?

On Wednesday evening, a call centre agent at the department of home affairs said I had to go to their offices in Randburg or call the office to ask them to close an application for passports that was submitted in 2012.

This was because the online system could not accept the new applications to renew our sons’ passports. This was because the old applications had remained opened since – wait for it – we had never collected the passports. This is interesting because our sons’ passports (now expired) are on my desk, and the boys have been out of the country several times since 2012.

By Friday afternoon, the Randburg office had not picked up calls. The 2012 applications remained open and I could therefore not do the renewal applications online.

It all started on Monday, a school holiday due to the Workers’ Day holiday on May 1. This provided an opportunity to take the boys to the Randburg office to renew their passports. An early drive to the offices would see us beat the often long queues and get help as quickly as possible.

At 06:30 we joined the already long queues for applications. An hour and 30 minutes later, instead of opening the offices, an official came out to tell us they could not assist immediately since the computerised ticketing system wasn’t working and had to be fixed. Clearly no official could write down the numbers and hand them to us. No regard for the fact that some people had queued from as early as 04:00.

By 08:30, there was no sign anyone would be assisted soon as we were still queuing outside while technicians fixed the ticketing system.

Fed up with the wait, we joined others who were leaving the queue to go back to their homes or offices.

Friends on social media suggested online applications that would involve visiting a branch of a bank. That system can’t assist me because there is a pending application on the old system for passports I “did not collect”. However, I have the passports and they have now expired.

Government must seriously improve the way it interacts with citizens who need services from the state. When you go to clinics, hospitals, traffic departments and municipalities, the queues are unbearable and force hundreds of people to leave without receiving the services they need, even when the need is urgent.

How many South Africans are missing a day of work, using a day of leave or being disciplined at work because they have to interface with this creaky, bureaucratic system that doesn’t seem to treat its customers’ time as precious?

That was my week.

Maybe I will go back to the Randburg office to ask them to close the old applications so I can process new ones online. Or does someone have the government-issued cellphone number of the Randburg office for me to call and ask them to remove this inconvenience (of theirs) so I can apply for my sons’ passports?

Follow me on Twitter @DumisaneLubisi

Read more on:    service delivery  |  home affairs

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