What are we paying for?

2010-09-29 00:00

NOW that the dust has settled or may finally settle next week, let the clients speak their minds.

I am referring to the public sector­ strike, which has been on a 21-day conditional suspension to give stakeholders time to iron out outstanding issues.

I am obviously also referring to the public servants who demonstrated­ the worst kind of hooliganism during the protracted strike.

By saying clients, I am referring to the members of the public, particularly taxpayers, whose hard-earned cash is going to foot the bill of these salary and housing allowance increments.

Once finalised, these increments for public servants are going to run into billions of rands.

But please ask yourself a fundamental question, because after all it is you, the client, who is going to get the statement.

The question is, as a client, what type of public service are you getting? Is the service worth paying for and is the statement worth querying?

When last did you visit the Department of Home Affairs? Can you rate the service, on a scale of one to 10?

Let me share my personal experience with you.

Not long ago I went to the Department of Home Affairs in Johannesburg­ to get a copy of a personal document.

I was greeted by a major scam at the entrance to the department.

A scrum of Nigerians offered to get me what I wanted if I forked out R200.

“My friend, you see the lines are long. You will be here for the whole day. But me, I will deliver what you want within a few minutes­,” one of them said.

I felt the pangs of anger ripping through my soul. In a huff I walked away and joined the long queue. Yes, the service was bad. I stood there for some time. But eventually I was attended to and I paid R10 for the copy that I wanted.

To discover that the department’s officials worked with Nigerian­ syndicates to rob us, left me extremely disgusted. It happened on the premises of the department. It was a shocker.

But this is the kind of client service that I am talking about.

Right now there is chaos at schools. A number of pupils have not even written their preliminary matric examinations because of the teacher strike. But no one is prepared to take responsibility, not even the unions which mobilised­ teachers to go on a violent­, destructive strike.

This simply means that the 2010 matric results are a disaster waiting to happen. Who is going to take responsibility? As a client, is this the service I deserve?

A total of 506 schools are said to be dysfunctional. Who is going to take responsibility? What does the future hold? What about our children?

Why are we paying these people for shoddy service?

You know it. I know it. If you want quality education for your children, you put them into a private­ school. If you want access to proper health care, you take yourself to a private hospital.

If you want top-class security for you and your family you go to private security firms. In some suburbs, the streets are patrolled and secured by private security firms. But what if you cannot afford this privatisation?

When this public-sector strike is finally settled we need to be told what we are paying these people for.

The trade unions must also be held responsible.

This is bullshit.

— Moneyweb.co.za

• Sipho Ngcobo is former deputy editor of Business Report and ex-managing editor of Enterprise magazine.

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