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KwaZulu-Natal - Durban politicians are divided over a plan for a call centre to be manned by out-of-work councillors to “filter” complaints from ward councillors to speed up service delivery.
On Thursday, eThekwini metro manager Sibusiso Sithole was given the go-ahead for a central call desk to field calls from councillors phoning in with ratepayer queries, which the DA has dubbed a complaints “filter” that will add another layer to an already bloated public service.
Council Speaker Logie Naidoo said the new procedure for “logging” complaints was in response to a “whole lot of complaints from councillors who raised issues over the past 12 months with no response”.
“The complaints will now come via here [the call centre], [and] they will be logged and channelled to the right officials,” he said.
While both the NFP and the Minority Front voted in favour of the plan, DA ward councillor Duncan du Bois said it would retard the “delivery system further”.
Du Bois and DA caucus leader Tex Collins said the plan’s real purpose was to create jobs for councillors who had been out of work.
Collins said: “There is nothing in the law that says the city cannot employ councillors who were ousted during the elections. They apparently monitor service delivery. But we don’t know if [a] proper process was followed when they were employed.”
Naidoo said ousted councillors were employed to deal with traditional leader matters as they had experience.
The Minority Front’s Patrick Pillay and the NFP’s Thabane Mtetwa said they had voted for the plan given that councillors would still be able to phone officials directly.
“As long as this does not interfere with the daily interaction with officials, we support it,” said Pillay.
Mtetwa said the call centre would make it easier to trace the implementation of council resolutions. However, representatives from Joburg and Cape Town were surprised to hear of the plan.
City of Cape Town media manager Kylie Hatton and Joburg’s Nthatisi Modingoane said direct interaction between councillors and public officials was actively encouraged.
“To limit the engagement with councillors and public officials [through a call centre] circumvents the democratic process,” said Hatton.
Lilian Develing, chairwoman of Durban’s Combined Ratepayers’ Association, said the move was not unexpected. - The Mercury