In June, Theogene Singirankabo’s bicycle was confiscated by local authorities from a neighbour who had borrowed it.
The local authorities claimed that Singirankabo’s neighbour had tax arrears he needed to pay. For Singirankabo, the loss of a bicycle, which was not just a transport means, but also the breadwinner of his family, meant the end of the world.
The Gikonko resident remembered a number he had seen pinned on doors at the Gisagara District headquarters. He called the number, 4045, after being assured by a neighbour that it was toll free.
The 25-year-old was immediately in touch with the vice mayor in charge of economic affairs who, after listening to his issue, directed the executive secretary of Gikonko Sector to follow up on the case.
“I am very happy I was compensated with a new bicycle. After sector authorities realised that my bicycle had been wrongfully confiscated and sold off,” said Singirankabo.
It is now over a year since districts initiated toll free lines that citizens can call to complain or to contribute ideas on how services can be made better. The numbers also serve security purposes, according to authorities, while also helping districts to sort out conflicts within the community.
For the people
For people like Singirankabo, this is a clear indication of good governance in Rwanda and he says until the day he dialled that number, it had never occurred to him that his vote (especially in the local government elections) was valuable.
The hotlines are manned by officers in charge of customer care in districts and they are mandated to take calls that come in, offer any assistance if it is about information, or forward the case to respective officials responsible.
They are obliged to make monthly reports of the cases received and teh progress in addressing them.
The in charge of public relations and marketing in Kamonyi District, Faustin Ntakirutimana said, “Citizens use the number (4057) free of charge and they get served without necessarily coming here. It saves both the time and money to get a service while also helping us to respond to citizens’ demands.”
Ntakirutimana said, in most cases, the citizens ask about the transfer of land titles.
“This saves them time because by the time they come to the district land bureau, they already have all the requirements, unlike in the past,” he said.
Others use the number to report any staff that may have given them poor service.
In Kamonyi, over 85 calls were recorded monthly. These were intended to either ask for information, complain or to give a suggestion.
In other districts, the system is the same, and the mayors say, the response is immediate.
Deo Nzamwita, the mayor of Gakenke District in Northern Province said that, “our people are now enlightened unlike in the past when they saw a local leader as a demi-god, you now cannot fault them and get away with it.”
Nzamwita recounts a case where people complained about the stalling of construction works at Muhondo market.
“When they told us about it, we followed up the case and the contractor resumed work,” he said.
Some mayors said sometimes they get queries over security matters, especially at night.
That is how Jean Baptiste Nzeyimana, a resident of Muganza Sector in Gisagara District was helped after calling the district hotline. On that fateful night, an executive secretary of his cell grabbed his merchandise from the market and beat him up, leaving him hospitalised.
“At night, the line shifts to the security officer who is on duty, taking over from the customer care officer,” said Willy Ndizeye, the Gasabo District mayor.