The Department of Communications (DOC) has cancelled the 112 emergency call centre project.
This comes after the department in May said the implementation of 112 as a national emergency number is back on the cards, and is being planned as a public-private partnership (PPP) that will be completed in the second half of 2012.
At a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee meeting last week, the DOC presented its annual report.
The total amount of unspent appropriation by the department was R711.5 million.
Of this amount, R117 million was not spent because the 112 emergency call centre project was terminated.
Committee members wanted to know the reasons for the under-spending, and asked what the reason was for the termination of the 112 project.
Concerns were raised about the cancellation of the project also meaning the loss of a number of jobs.
Linden Petzer, acting deputy director-general (DG) of infrastructure development, said the 112 emergency call centre project was intended as a PPP, but was cancelled by the previous DG Mamodupi Mohlala.
He added that current DG Rosey Sekese wants to revive the project as a matter of urgency.
After several implementation delays and talk of the pilot centre being shut down, the DOC in May said it will see the plan through.
“The department has taken the decision to continue with this project; as a result, we have commenced with the initial process of revitalising the project in the form of a PPP.”
The DOC added that the expected timelines to have the PPP completed would be in the latter part of 2012, since there have been significant changes in the project process.
In August last year, the department had said implementation of a single national emergency number would happen “soon” and specifically in the first or second quarter of the next financial year.
Currently, the recognised public emergency numbers in SA are 10111, 10177 and 112 for mobile phones.
Emergency Medical Services had called for the implementation of a centralised emergency number (112), because responses from the 10111 centres were delayed and not always reliable.
“People feel safe in their homes, because they know they can call 10111, but when you do call the chances of actually getting through to an SAPS member are very slim,” says Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister of police Dianne Kohler Barnard.
In response to a DA parliamentary question in 2009, the minister of police revealed the nationwide average response time to calls made to these centres is 42 minutes.
The 112 emergency pilot call centre reportedly cost R80 million, and was stuck in pilot mode for more than four years.
In the meantime, the call centre response has been acknowledged as being so poor that the ministry of police took to handing out cellphone numbers of police officials last year.
Officers were asked by national police commissioner Bheki Cele to give out their cellphone numbers, and the department is in the process of printing out a national directory so all citizens will have access to the numbers of generals and other officials.