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Presidential Hotline: A R12 million testament to the ANCís failure to deliver

Athol Trollip, Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Alliance
14 September 2010

Today’s statement by the Presidency, released to mark the Presidential Hotline’s first anniversary, not only posits a misleading appraisal of the Hotline’s performance but also directly contradicts comments made earlier this year by President Jacob Zuma. At its inception, the Hotline was lauded by the President as proof of the government’s commitment to improved performance. It has, however, become a spectacular example of the Zuma administration’s failure to deliver. 
 
The Presidency’s statement claims that the Hotline has received 72,299 calls in its first year, of which 57,375 were complaints. It alleges that 30 540 cases have been resolved in total by the Hotline, with 4000 cases being resolved each week. 
 
But it seems the Presidency has its wires crossed.
 
These statistics are, at best, an indication of the poor administration of the Hotline data and, at worst, a clear attempt by the Presidency to mislead the public.  
 
These figures are very different to those made public by the President earlier this year. Key discrepancies include:
 
•    Number of calls received: In a statement released on 9 October, President Zuma stated that a total of 312,137 calls had been received by the Hotline between 14 September and 8 October 2009 and, during an oversight visit by the Chief Whips’ Forum to the Hotline in March 2010, delegates were informed that 674 864 calls had been made to the Hotline. This figure- confirmed by the President in a reply to a DA parliamentary question in May- is 9 times the number of calls reported in today’s statement by the Presidency;
•    Calls dropped: No mention is made in the Presidency’s statement about the Hotline’s chronic problem of dropped calls. According to the parliamentary reply received by the DA in May, the President confirmed that 484 327 of the Hotline’s 674 864 received calls had been dropped, meaning that 70% of the calls made to the Hotline had never even reached an operator;
•    Calls resolved: The Presidency claims that 30 540 cases have been resolved in total, with around 4000 resolved each week. If these figures are correct, it implies that the Hotline has been functional for under eight weeks in the past year.  In addition, the actual number of fully resolved calls is most likely a fraction of this figure,  given that calls are logged as “resolved” when the enquiry is passed on to a government department, not when the problem being reported has been corrected.
 
In its first year of operation, the Hotline has been allocated almost R12 million of state funds, yet has performed abysmally. Once again, the ANC has sought to embrace mediocrity rather than pursue excellence. 
 
The statistics released today by the Presidency appear to constitute a gross overestimation of the Hotline’s success. Desperate to paint a picture of effective delivery, facts have been misrepresented and definitions of what constitutes real outcomes skewed to present a more palatable image of what is clearly a service delivery and PR disaster. 
 
In this light, that the Presidency has admitted that 57 375 complaints have been lodged with the Hotline in the last year gives an indication of the scale of South Africans’ frustration concerning the failure of the ANC government to deliver on its promises. 
 
The DA will be submitting parliamentary questions to the President to probe the discrepancies in today’s statement. 
 
In addition, it is pertinent to note that, even by its own figures, the Zuma Hotline has racked up more than 400 times as many complaints as the Press Ombudsman received from the public over a one year period. The ANC would do well to turn its energies to improving service delivery, and away from attacking the media and issuing self-glorying, fabricated media releases on public relations gimmicks.