Government departments failed to reply to one in three emails sent as part of an internal investigation into civil service responsiveness.

Internal auditors, posing as “Thomas Watler”, a fictitious member of the public, sent a routine enquiry to a list of 128 email contacts pulled from  government’s own websites and from the 2019 Find Yello Cayman Islands Directory.

“Government’s published email addresses and website contact forms are not providing the public with a reliable contact channel,” the Internal Audit Service report concluded.

“Over a third of the 128 tested contact points failed to elicit a response.”

Those who did respond to the email – a simple request for the name of a Freedom of Information contact person – did so in a timely fashion, with an average response time of just over six hours.

The audit did not assess the quality of the replies and was simply designed to test speed of response.

The report, prepared for the Portfolio of the Civil Service, recommended that the non-responders are informed and requested to take remedial action. It also calls for government to establish minimum standards for email responsiveness across the civil service and introduce a monitoring programme to help improve response rates.

A similar audit on telephone communication found a much-stronger response rate.

“Answered calls were found to be generally handled in a professional manner and the majority of calls (84%) were answered before the fourth ring,” the report noted.

Of the 163 calls made to numbers pulled from the phone directory and from government websites, 13 were either invalid or went unanswered despite repeated calls. Also, 15 out of 22 voicemail messages requesting a call back were never returned.

The report recommends that government review the invalid numbers and follow up with the departments that failed to respond. It also recommends new standards and expectations are published for handling calls.

The audits, prepared in 2019, were released to the Cayman Compass on request this week.

The Portfolio of the Civil Service has accepted the findings and recommendations of the audit.

In a detailed media response to accompany the release of the report, government acknowledged that the finding that one-third of emails went unanswered “falls short of our goal”.

It highlighted additional training for frontline staff and the creation of “customer service champions” in each ministry or department among the steps being taken to address the problem.

Government also highlighted improvement in its telephone call answer rate since a dedicated Contact Centre was established in July 2020. The centre which manages calls to the government’s main number, 949-7900, has a 93.7% efficiency rate and typically answers calls within 12 seconds, according to the statement.

Government plans to establish new call centres for the Needs Assessment Unit, Customs and Border Control, and the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing.

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