Cyprus Mail

Cabinet moves to resolve ‘missed calls’ scandal

Civil servants may be moved to other non government offices

By Jean Christou

THE Cabinet yesterday decided to create special call centres within each ministry, staffed by two or three persons to deal with public queries coming through the central switchboard.

Each department of each ministry will also have one person allocated to helping the public. There will also be a monitoring mechanism for missed calls installed in all ministries, an announcement from the Cabinet said.

The move comes a day after MPs were given a report that revealed a whopping 187,000 missed calls to government departments were logged in the space of one month under a pilot scheme to determine productivity.

In addition to the extra staff at ministries to deal with queries from the public, the Cabinet said the citizens’ service bureaus would also be allocated more staff.

The Cabinet said all the measures must be implemented within a month and each minister must report back on the creation of the call centres within their ministries.

It was also decided the department of electrical services would conduct a study to determine the possibility of creating a single call service centre either within the public sector itself or though outsourcing.

The Cyprus Mail’s web readers, like most members of the public who have had dealings with the public service, had a lot to say yesterday about the missed-calls revelations.

One commentator said the inefficiency and problems with the civil servants dated back to the start of the Republic when Archbishop Makarios, together with his close associates, created a power base in the form of an overstaffed public sector, employing close and trusted supporters.

“We have created a system where civil servants feel safe to do whatever they like and behave like small popes at all levels, since they have the blessing of the mandarins in power,” said the contributor.

To turn the problem around the government needed to be serious and courageous and citizens needed to wake up and question the arrogance they are met with every time they need any assistance from the state.

Another said civil servants must be held accountable for the quantity and quality of their work, which should be the deciding factor in determining promotions and pay rises. A third related the experience of a friend who, when calls were not being answered, struck on the idea of changing the last digit of the phone number thinking it was probably the extension on the next desk. “It was answered straight away,” they said. “Screening calls and avoiding problem numbers is rife”.

“You people need to understand that public servants have an allotted number of cigarettes and Frappe’s to get through in a day and these annoying phone calls don’t help,” quipped another contributor.

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