A contact centre is going to be set up to help people follow up with queries with the Master’s Office.
This comes after several concerns were raised by the public and attorneys over the backlogs and other challenges they were facing in dealing with deceased estates and other matters across the country.
Issues raised included staff not being responsive to correspondence, telephones are not answered, long delays in responding to queries, emails not being properly utilised, officials can’t be reached when there are queries and files being misplaced.
In response the Department of Justice (DOJ) said it had come up with a rescue plan, with one of the initiatives being a toll-free “one-stop” contact centre.
The rescue plan was approved by Minister Ronald Lamola earlier this month.
“In terms of the high-level diagnosis, we have identified a couple of issues.
Amongst them is the long queues in our offices that are delaying the provision of services and unreliable and slow systems, loss of clients documents, poor infrastructure of some offices, load shedding and backlogs,” the department said in feedback to Parliament last week.
The department said the toll-free contact centre solution would be equipped with functionalities such as email, WhatsApp, SMS, and reference numbers to ensure that when queries were raised they responded to on one of the platforms.
It said it was also going to institute a Master’s complaints management committee to ensure that complaints were responded to regularly.
In terms of processes, the department was reviewing and amending standard operational procedures (SOPs) and looking at ways to clear the backlog.
“Amongst others is to allow our offices to close at 1pm so that we can deal with our backlog issues to ensure that at least within two or three months we have done sufficient work in terms of reducing the backlog. We are going to have sufficient consultation with the stakeholders strictly by appointment in the afternoons and only on two of the five working days to deal with the administrative issues.”
To address the issue of missing documents, the department said it has acquired an off-site storage facility where a service provider will digitise documents for easy access.
The department conceded that there were challenges with infrastructure in all their offices to varying degrees, adding that load shedding is also a big challenge that is interrupting workflow.
“In state-owned facilities we are running a generator project with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) and we are anticipating that phase one of the project will be commissioned as expected in March 2024. For the leased facilities procurement instructions were sent to DPWI for the landlords to start with the installation of the generators. The anticipated completion date for all the Master’s offices in leased facilities to have functional generators is April 2024.”
Internally, the department said it would purchase inverters as a short-term solution. The department added that there are also shortages of office accommodation.
“Most of the Master’s offices are located in leased buildings and most of them are due for renewal.”