Palestine Pulse

Gazans now complaining online

Article Summary
Gaza residents can submit their grievances and questions to governing authorities and departments via an electronic complaints system.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Residents of Gaza have typically had to spend hours waiting to lodge their complaints at various government agencies, but for a few weeks now, they have been able to submit their grievances with a click. On Sept. 5, the administration in Gaza inaugurated an electronic complaints system, which should save residents much time and effort. Previously, complaints had to be submitted in writing or in person.

The Centralized Complaints System is under the administration of the Ministry of Telecom and Information Technology (MTIT), with complaints being channeled through the Governmental Performance Quality Unit. Some 100 employees follow up on the expressed grievances and route them to the concerned ministries.

Mohammed Kahil, a resident of the Sabra neighborhood, submitted a complaint about a ministerial employee failing to properly complete an official document related to his younger brother’s education at the Al-Falah School in Gaza. He told Al-Monitor, “It is difficult for citizens to directly contact directors and officials within ministries, but the e-government complaints system is a good step that will make it easier for us to submit our complaints to the government departments.”

Kahil said that the system should improve the performance of ministry employees, because they will be subject to government supervision. “Now they have to properly respond to the complaints and cannot ignore them, as they would do with complaints submitted by hand in some cases,” he said.

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The MTIT designed and programmed the system so residents receive feedback and email responses about their complaints through a log-in system. Hayel Abu Jabal, a resident of the Zaytoun neighborhood, said he filed an e-complaint to the Ministry of Local Governance Sept. 7 requesting the paving of Tunis-Turabi Street, which is next to his house and has been damaged by flooding. He said the ministry responded by email, promising him to pave the street this year.

Ihab al-Ghussein, the head of the Governmental Performance Quality Unit and who on Aug. 20 announced the system's rollout, told Al-Monitor, “It is one of the plans we are working on in order to improve the performance of the various ministries. We seek to provide citizens with proper services by centralizing the receipt of complaints of all ministries.”

He explained that beyond the system's basic objectives — facilitating the submission of feedback to the concerned officials, addressing the issue of the complaints, and supervising and monitoring how the problem is solved — it also allows the government to identify departments that regularly receive complaints.

According to Ghussein, the system is already popular, having logged some 150 complaints within two days. “If the citizen who filed a complaint through the system is not satisfied with the solution offered, the complaint will be referred to the Complaints Office affiliated with the Directorate General of Complaints.”

Mohammed Fadel al-Nadim, the head of the systems and software unit of MTIT's Information Technology General Directorate, told Al-Monitor, “It receives complaints related to poor [public] services or procedures or improper behavior by an employee within any of the Palestinian ministries. The system can also determine if the ministries are providing services in the expected manner.”

He explained that in addition to notifying complainants by email of the solutions and procedures related to their grievance or question, “When the citizens’ problem is handled, they are required to evaluate the performance of the complaint-handling process and express their level of satisfaction.”

Mohammad al-Habash, who lives in Gaza City's al-Tuffah neighborhood, told Al-Monitor that in light of the electricity crisis in Gaza, he prefers not to use the government electronic complaints system. He still prefers submitting handwritten feedback to make sure that his complaint has been directly given to the person in charge. He noted another drawback of the new setup, remarking, “This system depends on the internet, which is not accessible by some citizens as a result of the poor economic conditions in Gaza.”

Regardless, the e-complaint system suggests that despite the ongoing blockade against Gaza, some progress is still possible.

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Hani Abu Rezk is a Palestinian journalist residing in Gaza. A former correspondent for al-Haya newspaper, he is currently a freelance journalist. Rezk graduated from Gaza's Al-Azhar University in 2014 with a major in journalism. He is interested in youth and social affairs.

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