Lumbering giant

2008-06-27 00:00

Consider, for example, that in the private sector there is considerable scope for flexibility. This applies particularly to smaller companies which have not grown to a size where they become bureaucratic, almost in the mould of a government department.

Innovative ideas can be implemented quickly. Decision-makers can be gathered at short notice and strategies can be altered in one session. In dancing parlance, any step is possible —– from the quickstep to the cha-cha-cha. The government, however, is stuck with a slow dance to a ponderous and constant rhythm. Decision-making is usually remote from the action and, above all, implementation requires foresight and planning that must be undertaken considerably well in advance. Even if this is accomplished, the various statutory demands present an obstacle course which, maze-like, may obscure the way through.

Two specific cases come to mind. The Demarcation Board addressed the metropolitan issue at a time when only one decision was realistically possible. This is the decision that it made. If it makes any change, following the statutory

30-day period for public comment, the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) deadline for the next elections will be missed and the change will not be accommodated. The question is: why was this matter not addressed in good time? After all, it has been pending since 2000.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has granted increases to Eskom. These include higher rates for municipalities that purchase Eskom energy and sell it to their own customers. By the time the changes were announced any municipality worth its salt had already finalised its budget for the new financial year. This, honoured often in the breach rather than the observance, requires municipalities to consult and once this process has been done, tariffs, which require public announcement, may not be changed. Who would be a municipal leader?

The municipality will have to pay Eskom significantly more for the electricity it receives but lacks the legal capacity to pass this increase on to its own customers. This dilemma has prompted discussion within the SA Local Government Association (Salga) which has recognised that the convolution of statutes and strategies have led to a blind alley.

Lest Msunduzi consumers think that this might save them from tariff increases, I give the assurance that a pragmatic way will be found to either circumvent, or trample over, the statutory problem. It will not be the first time –— nor the last, I’m sure.

Andrew Layman is a former headmaster and now the CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business.

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