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Drivers Licence Call Centre shut down

MoneyWeb 5 October 2010 

The manual method for booking is reinstated in Gauteng as the GSSC closes its problematic contact centre.

The Gauteng Department of Transport (DOT) has shut down its call centre for electronic driver and learner licence test booking indefinitely.

Spokesperson Philemon Motshwaedi confirms there were a lot of challenges with the contact centre and says technical glitches also added to the problems.

He adds that the main reason for shutting down the call centre is because the provincial department cancelled its contract with the service provider, Sibize Calling International.

Motshwaedi says this change is only for Gauteng, and other provincial systems will continue as normal.

In August, the Eastern Cape fully deployed the drivers' licence electronic booking system and was the last province to roll out the solution.

Internal capacity

Motshwaedi explains that the call centre had to be shut down because the department is in the process of migrating functionalities from the company to the department and the Gauteng Shared Services Centre (GSSC), which runs and manages the system.

The migration process was interfering with the efficiency of the system and causing frustrations, which is why the decision was taken to revert to manual operations in the meantime, according to Motshwaedi.

He adds that the contract with Sibize was cancelled because the department feels it is now within its ability to manage operations of the call centre on its own. "The call centre approach was reached in a short phase so that we can now do it on our own in our internal capacity.

Motshwaedi also says this saves the cost of paying for a service that the government can now deliver on its own.

He says the department cannot, as yet, provide a time frame for when the contact centre will be running again. "We need to continue with internal assessment based on our internal objectives and a lot of testing is going to be done. After the migration and the testing then we will have an idea of when the call centre will be back."

Old problem

The GSSC has come under fire several times in the past due to the province's backlog in dealing with drivers' and learners' licence bookings.

The GSSC had previously increased the number of productive seats in the contact centre, which deals with this issue, and further outsourced the management of it. It had also denied that the backlog was due to the contact centre's inability.

Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane, who previously criticised the centre following its R1.7 billion payment backlog, called it an embarrassment.

The agency has come under fire for several key projects since the provincial government took the decision to migrate all technology-related projects to the GSSC in an effort to standardise the processes and platforms.

The Gauteng Online Web portal, which is run and managed by the GSSC, has had constant technical issues and downtime.

The site forms part of the centre's drive to implement e-government services. Along with its contact centre, the Web portal is supposed to improve access to services and information in the province.

The GSSC has also struggled with the online schools initiative it inherited from the Gauteng Department of Education. Following several delays, the initiative to build province-wide 25-seat computer labs with Internet and e-mail capabilities was scheduled to connect 2 042 schools by May, but this did not materialise.

GSSC rabble

The GSSC was re-incorporated into the Gauteng finance department following financial concerns. It was placed under supervision, primarily because of its long list of financial troubles, including a payment backlog of R1.7 billion, which it owed to hundreds of suppliers to public hospitals and schools.

Last year, Mokonyane lambasted the embattled GSSC, saying she would no longer tolerate any mismanagement from the department. She said it was unacceptable that the GSSC continued to blame its systems for its many troubles.

In the hopes of clearing out the rabble at the department, the premier instigated an investigation into the functioning of the GSSC. The report was speculated to spell death for the department.

The GSSC was established as the 12th department of the Gauteng Provincial Government in November 2001. Its core business is to provide a provincial government-wide internal support service in terms of audit services, human resource services, procurement services, finance services and technology support services.

Electronic booking

At a cursory level, the system, run on eNatis, essentially handles the registration of cars and booking of learners' and drivers' tests at various licensing and testing stations across the country.

Officials say the service is in the process of being extended and could in future handle other transport-related services, like online fine payment and the ability to renew drivers' licences online.

The project was prompted by the increasing need to come up with an efficient, secure and customer convenience system.

In addition to streamlining the booking process, the new booking system validates examiners, testing centres and appointments, and prevents unscrupulous officials from abusing the system by extorting money from the public in order to obtain driving licence appointments.

Despite complaints that the system was ineffective and dysfunctional, the transport department maintains the centralisation of the learner booking system is working very well and continues to eliminate the illegal sale of booking slots by corrupt officials.

The system has been deployed at more than 2 000 sites across the country and handles roughly 16 million queries a month.

This article was published on Moneyweb on 5 October 2010