Cape Town’s Ombud rolls out SMS-based information line

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Cape Town’s Ombudsman office has introduced an SMS service it says will make it easier for residents to seek assistance and to keep the city on its toes.

The Ombudsman is an official appointed by the city to independently investigate complaints residents may have about its departments and staff.

The Ombudsman should be treated as a last resort, says the city, adding it must only be approached in the event of insufficient response from a department, or if a resident is unsatisfied with the outcome or the level of service delivery.

In a statement, the city says residents can send a text message to 44781 (standard rates apply) to get information and assistance on how to lodge a complaint.

Residents can also send a Please Call Me to the number for assistance, it adds.

“The launch of the SMS 44781 service is truly exciting,” says the city’s Ombudsman Vusumzi Magwebu. “At its core, it is about bringing services closer to all the residents of Cape Town. The quick-access, easy and affordable SMS service is a dedicated channel for general queries and advice on how to lodge a complaint.

“It is important that our services are accessible, especially to the most vulnerable residents. We have to move with the times and offer services on the channels that our residents use most. COVID-19 will also continue to have a profound impact on how services are offered.”

In terms of how it works, complainants are urged to limit the SMS message to 160 characters per message.

Complainants can submit a message in one of two ways: first, as a new message – the complainant is to provide a brief description with their name, surname, telephone number and municipal account number. The second is if there is an existing complaint lodged, the complainant should include their municipal account number and a brief message.

According to the statement, the complainant will receive an automated response and the Ombud’s office will try to respond to an SMS query within two working days.

On receipt of a complaint, the Ombudsman’s office will assess the matter to determine jurisdiction as per the by-law and policy, and will notify the complainant of the outcome.

If it is a matter that the Ombud can investigate, complainants will be assisted with the correct complaints forms via online channels or post, it states.

“On average, for complaints that are not too complex and where documentation is submitted timeously by the complainant, the turnaround time is up to three months from complaint to resolution.

“Actual complaints cannot be submitted via telephone, but complainants will be assisted with obtaining the forms and will be guided through the submission process.”

Once a complaint form has been completed, it can also be sent by post. Alternatively, the complaint form can be e-mailed to, or faxed to 021 400 5952.

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