Audit raises questions about handling of 311 calls

Audit raises questions about handling of 311 calls

· The Pulse

New details revealed in a city audit of its response to 311 requests suggest users have identified a huge volume of services needed, but the city lacks clarity on whether it actually addresses these requests when it marks them as resolved.

The report that city council's audit committee will discuss on Nov. 30 indicates that the City of Edmonton's 311 agents created 6.5 million tickets from 2018 to 2022.

But while the audit has determined 311 is working "effectively," it also prompts the committee to consider what happens to those tickets. The city's audit suggests there are "multiple definitions" on what it means to close a 311 ticket. "Some business areas are closing tickets before actually completing them," reads the audit report.

The 311 service is often suggested when Edmontonians voice complaints about service problems, and it is leaned upon to help bolster city services that have faced cuts, such as the decision to cut back on community sandboxes and rely on 311 calls to identify when to replenish them. Council has also heard that calls to 311 about encampments have risen by 1,075% since 2016, growing to 9,300 in 2022.

The audit report suggests the closure practice may be related to city staff working to hit performance indicators. "Business areas we spoke to believe it is the percentage of service requests closed on time," reads the report. "However, the business areas have not documented their key performance indicator(s) or have targets to assess their performance. Also, they do not have a clear method to calculate the percentage of service requests closed on time."

The report also suggests that the city's business areas do not regularly provide details about open and closed tickets on the 311 website.

The city's service innovation and performance branch is responsible for 311, though both it and the different business areas of the city can create and close tickets. The city's response to the 311 audit is, in part, to recommend that its own departments become clear on when a ticket is actually closed, suggesting the threshold should be "when the business area has resolved the service request and communicate(d) this to all business areas that close 311 tickets."

Photo: The 311 phone at Edmonton's city hall in 2012. (Mack Male/Flickr)