Public service delivery is always judged determined by the level of delivery in front-line social services departments such as health, social development, education and human settlements or housing. These departments often overshadow all other government departments because they are about the livelihoods, wellness and social needs of the people, most of whom are the poor. So, if they fail to meet their obligations to the citizens, it becomes easy to notice and even solicits protests from those affected. But the backroom departments that have little to do with social needs are hardly noticed even when they do wrong. Sometimes those...
Public service delivery is always judged determined by the level of delivery in front-line social services departments such as health, social development, education and human settlements or housing.

These departments often overshadow all other government departments because they are about the livelihoods, wellness and social needs of the people, most of whom are the poor. So, if they fail to meet their obligations to the citizens, it becomes easy to notice and even solicits protests from those affected.

But the backroom departments that have little to do with social needs are hardly noticed even when they do wrong. Sometimes those who notice, ignore it or take it for granted.

Among these departments is the South African Revenue Service (Sars), which has moved from the best to the worst of all. For years, Sars was famous for overcollection of revenue rather than undercollection. But you can't say that any more and the situation is worsening. We should be worried because that means the fiscus is depleting and that may affect service delivery by the government.

The minister of finance has to rob Peter to pay Paul to keep the country going. On 31 August, I visited the Sars offices in Roodepoort with the idea of completing my eFiling application after I got stuck at home. I was disappointed by the lax service level to the taxpayers.

There was queue snaking through the shopping centre, with some of the people having been there since 6am. The officials or security were only helping those who had "appointments".

What annoyed everybody was the fact that of the 80 people listed as having appointments, some had been delayed and missed their appointments. This meant those in the queue had to wait until the appointments list was exhausted before being seen to. The estimated time to help those in the queue was 2pm, a few hours before closing time.

I and many others marched out in protest. It is no wonder that revenue collection has been dropping under Sars. The tax office has become the opposite of what it used to be a few years ago, where you would enter and be done inside an hour.

As I was going back to work (at home, of course), hoping to kill two birds with one stone, I went past home affairs down the road to renew my passport. I experienced a different attitude and completely the opposite of the situation at Sars. I briefly stood in a queue and within no time was inside and assisted after my number was called.

From the supervisor, Sarah Maboza, and her team of Molefe Montshwane, Peter Warnich, Lungile Afrika and Sandra Mokgalabone, there was visible commitment and dedication to their job. They spoke less and did more and none of them was loitering and leaving people unattended.

Maboza and the team served with a smile, something you hardly see in a government institution these days. On the way home, I received an SMS saying that my application had been received. On Tuesday this week, I got another message saying that my passport was being transported from Pretoria to the centre and I could collect it either yesterday or today.

While I cannot vouch for corruption that happens elsewhere, the Roodepoort home affairs office is great.

Differing levels of service


Eric Naki.

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