Government Efficiency

Our trip on Monday to the Department of Home Affairs, Somerset West branch, to apply for my son's ID document was comparatively quick.

No thanks to the employees...

It's a relatively small town, and now that the office is open 6 days a week, there are no longer 4 hour queues in front of the building. There were only 6 people when we were there. One would have thought we'd be shunted along so the staff could have their tea in peace.

But no.

Of the 4 people behind the counter, only one was serving clients. Another was shuffling the same papers from one place to another repeatedly. One was slowly cutting envelopes in half to use as photo holders on forms. The other was walking from tea corner to desk - not achieving anything noticeable except leaning over the one working guy's shoulder to comment on what he was doing. The phone rang constantly and was not answered by anyone.

When two locals pushed in (by simply going to stand at an empty counter spot until helped), no-one in authority did anything, and the rest of us with no authority were ignored.

By the time our turn arrived, two and a half employees were working. We got the slow-cutter one, who took time-out to consult her colleagues on whatever they were doing without finishing serving us first. We had photos that needed trimming - she slowly (and not carefully) cut them. Then cut more envelopes slowly to put them in. Never looked us in the eye, never said anything helpful or informative.

The one staff member who had been constantly serving the queue was the only efficient bod in the entire place. He was in charge of fingerprints too, and did these with professionalism and speed.

The rest? It's obvious customer service is still not a priority, no matter how the head of the department bleats it is.

Nevertheless, it didn't take all day to apply for an ID - and other than a passport renewal ASAP that's the last time I'll have to observe the government being efficient for a while.

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