The Minister of Police has revealed shocking data on 10111 call
centres, showing that it takes an average of 42 minutes to dispatch
a unit to a call and for the dispatched unit to then respond. This
has been revealed in response to a parliamentary question that I
posed to him. Nationwide, it takes on average 20 minutes to
dispatch a unit to a call and a further 22 minutes for the
dispatched unit to respond. To say that this is a systematic
service delivery failure is an understatement of note - the fact is
that the ANC government continues to fail miserably in delivering
this crucial service to South Africans.
The situation is exceptionally serious in the Eastern Cape,
where in Mthatha for instance the reply states that it takes 327
minutes (almost 6 hours) to dispatch a unit to a call, and another
75 minutes for the unit to respond. In Port Elizabeth there is an
average 50 minute wait for the unit to be dispatched and for a
response; in Queenstown it takes 54 minutes alone for the unit to
be dispatched. The situation is also extremely serious in the North
West, where a response time of up to four hours has been recorded.
The reply further revealed that, out of the 20 call centres
nationwide, only 3 have the staff complement required to operate at
full capacity. All except Gauteng (12%) and Phuthaditjhaba in the
Free State (full capacity) are at least 20% understaffed, with the
highest vacancy rate being 85% in Mpumalanga.
The information provided raises some serious questions as to
what is really going on at some of these call centres. The
Queenstown call centre had a R331 000 budget overrun (equivalent to
a 45% budget overrun), 8 more staff members than required for
optimal functioning and yet only answered 3615 calls last year. If
one divides the total number of calls per person, it is equivalent
to 1 call every 3 days per staff member. What is even more
incredible is that the average time for the call centre to dispatch
a unit was 54 minutes - almost a full hour and at this very same
call centre, a caller waited 15 minutes for the phone to be
answered. This is nothing short of chronic service delivery failure
and some serious explaining needs to be done.
Other significant information in this reply includes:
* The Mthatha call centre in the Eastern Cape's total
expenditure for 08/09 was R1 406 721 and they received 5415 calls.
The expenditure versus call rate, makes this the most expensive
(and most inefficient) centre at R260 per call. This is in contrast
to the Polokwane call centre, which reported expenditure of R311
633 and received 334 272 calls in the same period, equivalent to
R0.93 per call.
* The Northern Cape call centre does not have the adequate
equipment to be able to generate statistics. The statistics, if
available, would most likely be quite appalling considering the 68%
vacancy rate at the call centre.
* Mpumalanga's three call centres are not fully operational and
have the highest vacancy rate of 85%. Despite this, the three call
centres spent almost R2m in 2008/2009.
A full copy of the reply, including data for each province, is
available upon request from email@example.com
In addition to all of this, we will submit further parliamentary
questions to obtain a more detailed breakdown of the total call
waiting times. The data provided in this reply suggests that most
call centres pick up calls within less than a minute, yet earlier
this year the Auditor General revealed that a total of 100 739
calls had been abandoned during 2008/09, and that more than 50,000
had been abandoned while in a call queue. It is difficult to
reconcile the Department's parliamentary reply with the AG's data.
It is particularly essential now that the Police Department
properly implements the Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) policy. At
a SCOPA hearing in July this year MPs heard that roughly 12,000
SAPS vehicles still have not been fitted with these systems, which
link vehicles to the call centres. Parliament also heard that only
the Western Cape and Gauteng had centrally monitored AVL systems.
These AVLs are intended to assist in effectively dispatching
vehicles and the fact that not all vehicles are fitted with AVLs,
and not all provinces are centrally monitored, is clearly hindering
the optimal functioning of the call centres.
I will be writing to the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee
on Police this week to request that the police commissioner be
asked to appear before the committee in order to explain these
serious shortcomings, as well as the underspending and overspending
highlighted in this report, and his plans to remedy this.