How often do you read or hear reports or press releases so delusional that it sounds as if it cannot be true? A popular one is to state that they will solve their problems through the upgrading/replacement of their information technology (IT) infrastructure? I have seen and heard this promise on numerous occasions from both state departments as well as large private sector organisations. Every time an organisation is under-performing the solution seems to be to introduce hardware and software. Not long after that has been implemented it is obvious that the so-called solution was a flop and the costly exercise is repeated, usually accompanied with a change of vendor and all that goes with it. No wonder that the administration costs of especially the state departments are going through the roof. The solution to the problem is constantly overlooked.
The idea that the IT infrastructure of especially the state is a magic wand that can fix all problems is a total misconception. A computer cannot (yet) think logically like some human beings are capable of. You have heard the cliché of “garbage in, garbage out” many times; it is still appropriate.
What then is the secret to the solving of the problem if an organisation is not functioning as is expected? The best people for the job should be appointed and then they should receive on-going training. The training should never stop as the administrative environment continuously changes – the administrators of the Act who are supposed to inform the clients especially so. I experience daily the ignorance of people who are supposed to assist the client or the employer in some cases. The idea that the IT can solve the problem is a fallacy. Although it’s a must as an administrative aid, it is nothing more and nothing less.
Another common occurrence is that legislation is changed to suit the level of the expertise of the civil servants administering the Act. If the officials cannot cope with existing legislation, the Act is altered. The result is the lowering of standards. Training, once again is the solution, not a legislative amendment.
When in trouble, another approach is to decentralise the problem. Create offices where the standard is even lower than the so-called head office. I have serious doubts that the IT can be “decentralised” if the main infrastructure in the head office is in a mess; I did not guess the latter fact, the CC told the parliament committee so. What is, however, disturbing is what such a decentralisation is going to cost although money does not seem to be a problem. Decentralisation in the true sense of the word means the total service scope not a “post office” receiving forms and passing them on to the head office for adjudication and rendering the total service. If the head office’s IT is in such a state as was explained to the portfolio committee, how do they intend to create a wide area network? Putting it bluntly, it is a pipe dream.
Now verbatim quotes of some of the press releases by the Department of Labour dated 27 March 2012 to illustrate my viewpoint.
“The compensation Fund has promised a bright future for its clients free from glitches of delayed claims that have characterised the institution for decades”
“Time has come for us to move away from a paper-based institution to one that is automated and therefore quickening claims capturing, assessment and adjudication:
He said the future would see an organisation staffed with a knowledge worker who is rounded and who understands the entire value chain of the Fund”
Try to work that one out for yourself.
“.. The future Fund would be decentralised in order to bring services closer to the people once agreement with trade unions have been concluded. He said all the processes and case management would be done in provinces rather than Pretoria”
I am not sure since when trade unions are involved in the management of the Compensation Fund. What I do know is that waiting for the blessings from trade unions to administer employers’ contributions is highly irregular and ultra vires the Act.
See what I mean. It sounds familiar and a repeat of numerous previous attempts. At the risk of sounding critical I point out what the future holds for employers. That is, once the pies (in the sky) have landed.
Till next month