Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Monday, June 28, 2004

Implementation failures in Government delivery
Whilst I again have to deplore Independent Newspapers' use of rather salascious headline copy, a story they have written in The Star is another in a series of questionable rollouts of government policy.

Mbeki has rightfully trumpeted the need for delivery in this term and has created some very commendable and valuable social reform programs, but the implementation leaves a significant amount to be desired. The problem lies in the organisational capacity of the regional civil service structures that need to implement, publicise and service these programs. Recent history here in Cape Town highlights the problem perfectly. Firstly, the car licensing issues last year. Yes, there had been a deadline in place to convert to new car licenses, but local government gave the public more credit than they deserved in expecting them to contact their government branches to find out when the deadline was. The result: a huge media campaign one week before the deadline waving a big penalty stick, which forced thousands of motorists on unprepared traffic departments, leaving multi-block queues, large overtime pay bills and huge losses in productivity. Similarly, the deadline for traffic fine payment, the local AIDS drug rollout and the implementation of the FICA laws are further examples.

Which brings me to this article on gun laws. It's a great idea that the government is going to clamp down on gun laws and attempt to make guns and gun licenses harder to gain, I support it 100%, but again, a terrible job has been done in consulting the relevant parties, managing the process and publicising the proposed alterations. Millions of individuals and businesses in this country rely on private security forces to provide personal and enterprise security in our high-crime environment. Now we are told that as of Thursday this week, no person will be allowed to carry a gun without a competency permit, inferring that South Africa's 50 000 security personnel will require approved competency training in the next four days (a task industry expert say will take more than 16 months to complete), should they wish to carry a gun. Clearly, criminals will not be rushing to get their training, and all we have is another messy situation that leaves us all more vulnerable.

Forgive me for sounding like a true capitalist, but this kind of project management is a basic business technique and should not be beyond the skills of any mid-level manager in local government. Intelligent programs are fantastic, but they are nothing without intelligent implementation.