Public Complaint Unit has not received a single complaint in 4 months

- ANUP OJHA, Kathmandu

Jun 10, 2019-

The Public Complaint Unit, also known as Hello Mahaganagar, a hotline service, was established by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City to address problems faced by the public within the metropolis in 2017.

However, since its establishment, it has not been doing much. The reason: people have not been calling up the hotline. In the past four months, the office says it has not received even a single complaint.

When the Post visited the office, on the sixth floor of the JDA complex, last week, there was only one computer operator (junior officer) Anju Kumari Chaudhari. With earphones plugged on, Chaudhari was busy playing games on her cell phone. The only two other officers were not present at work. One officer Krishna Prasad Chapagain, the section officer (head of the unit), was on leave to recruit new officials at the metropolis; the other office Dhurba Khadka was not present in the office. Their chairs were empty and tables covered in a layer of dust.

“We don’t have much to do around here since we don’t get complaints. Chapagain Sir is on leave while Khadka sir has stepped out for some personal work,” said Chaudhari. She said she has been spending her days transferring complaints related to the metropolis from Hello Sarkar to related wards, divisions and units of the metropolis.

Unlike Hello Sarkar, the Public Complaint Unit of the metropolis does not use social media to interact with the public. Hello Sarkar, a government initiative tasked with listening to public complaints and grievances and transferring them to the concerned ministries and government agencies, has a good presence on social media and is effective in responding to public queries and grievances. Hello Sarkar has 178,000 followers on Twitter and has tweeted 319,000 times. The unit is equally active on Facebook with thousands of followers and complaint registers.

“I have already talked to the Information Technology officer to make a separate Facebook and Twitter account for us. Once we have the accounts, we will take complaints through social media platforms and address them accordingly,” said Chapagain.

In a metropolis with three million population (according to data from the metropolis), problems are aplenty—from littering to sewage to garbage disposal, defunct street lamps to increasing dust and sound pollution to insufficient parking space. However, going by the lack of complaints registered at the office, it seems as though the metropolis is free of problems.

When the Post reported about the unit’s dysfunctionality in November last year, Chapagain had cited lack of human resource for the office’s incompetence. A year ago, the unit only had one employee, Chapagain, and sensing the urgency to respond to Kathmandu denizens’ problems, two employees were added for the hotline.

Ganesh Thapaliya, administration head at the metropolis, had then informed about the office’s plans to move office space this year. In addition, Thapaliya had also vowed to make the metropolis’s hotline service more effective.

Upon enquiring, however, it was found that the hotline service has received only five complaints till date, with the last one registered some four months ago.

Pradeep Raj Pandey, from Samakhushi, on November 25, 2018, had registered a complaint about the pathetic status of a road in Ward-16. Nawaraj Joshi from Kamalpokhari on January 21, 2018, had complained about the loss of fish that were relocated from Rani Pokhari. Similarly, another complaint was registered by Govinda Aryal regarding the lack of ‘disable-friendly’ roads on December 25 last year. The last complaint the metropolis received was from Raman Shrestha from Kotesher who complained about how his ‘motorbikes’ parts were ‘removed’ after the bike was towed from parking by the metropolis on January 28 this year.

Kulprasad Bhattarai, a permanent resident at Kuleshwor, who has been living in Kathmandu for over five decades now, is confident that the hotline service is a defunct entity. “We have been to the metropolis office with delegation on several occasions to complain about water shortage, drainage and road problem in our ward, but our issues were never addressed,” said Bhattrai.

“Going to the office and registering the complaint ourselves didn’t see any results. Hoping that registering a complaint through a phone call or an email will be taken seriously is a mistake.”

When the Post contacted Chief Executive Officer Kedar Bahadur Adhikari to ask about the absence of complaints at his office, he said, “I guess the public is fed up with the administration of the city and have hence stopped complaining. They are well aware that complaining is not going to bring any positive changes, and this may be why we don’t receive complaints,” said Adhikari.

In the Post’s visit to the ‘hotline service’ in November last year, the metropolis had received just two complaints. The office has one telephone line and no computer.

However, after transferring the office at metropolis’ central office, there are two telephone lines and a computer, and two operators to run the system. According to Chapagain, with the government’s recent move to increase the salary scale of government workers, non-gazetted second class officers at the office now take home Rs 30,000 per month.

Despite these changes, the office remains a shadow of what it was established to be. “This is an embezzlement of taxpayers hard earned money. If there is nothing to do in the office, there is no point in running the office. Why should they get paid?” questioned Bhattarai. “This is the state of affairs in our bureaucratic system.”

Published: 10-06-2019 09:05

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