The perils of bureaucracy

The perils of bureaucracy

Does anyone enjoy dealing with government institutions or their corporate brethren? I can’t imagine so …

We’ve all watched some or other TV show in which someone in high office, or a similar organisation, is accused of being “a spineless bureaucrat” or “a bureaucratic fool”.

But, what is a bureaucrat? Should we be bureaucratic? Do we need bureaucracy? Here’s a short English-cum-politics lesson …

By Wikipedia’s definition, a bureaucracy was historically a government administration managed by departments staffed with officials who have not been elected. Today, bureaucracy is the administrative system governing any large institution. Likewise, a bureaucrat is defined as an official who is rigidly devoted to the details of administrative procedure.

The thing is, though, bureaucracies tend to become too complex and then inefficient or inflexible – hence the slurs directed towards those poor chaps in the TV shows … Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the bureaucratic beast – it’s certainly nothing South Africans are unused to.

Pick any vehicle licensing centre, for instance. Heck, in the modern sense of the word, pick a large non-governmental institution, like an insurance company, and see if you have much more luck … The bureaucrats themselves are not exactly “rigidly devoted to the details of administrative procedure”, either. Unless, that is, they work for everyone’s favourite bureaucratic institution – the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

So, why this little rant-cum-English-cum-politics lesson? Regular readers will remember my December column, in which I detailed the demise of my three personal vehicles. Well, I bought a new one at the beginning of this year – which resulted in one of the most stressful two weeks I’ve had in a long time.

“Mr Myers, we can’t get the vehicle registered in your name, because of outstanding vehicle licence fees.” Well, that was a shock – with one car traded in, one sold and the last written off, how could this be?

It turned out that the chap who bought the one I sold had not filled in the change of ownership papers and registered it in his name (important lesson there for prospective sellers – always make sure that YOU do this).

A week-long scramble ensued to get everything sorted out, only to be told that I couldn’t do much because the car that had been written off, three months earlier, had not yet been deregistered from my name by the insurance company (which had long since received the original licence certificate).

Four visits to the bureaucrats at Johannesburg’s Marlborough and Sandton licensing departments (who each kindly filled in the pieces of information that the other had neglected to mention …) and many a call through the various bureaucratic levels of my insurance company later, and I was well and truly stuck … The morning my 21-day temporary permit was to expire arrived, and I had got nowhere.

In a desperate bid to get my new steed “road legal” I begrudgingly paid the outstanding amounts and the penalty fees, and now sit with two gleaming licence disks for two vehicles I no longer own … Phase two of my battle commences.

Bureaucracy: great by definition, but a real pain for the masses; especially when the bureaucrats who drive it don’t do their jobs properly.

More road safety billboards

Following last month’s Wheel Nut – in which I spoke about a Department of Transport billboard that warns against texting and driving – I noticed yet another effort on Johannesburg’s Beyers Naude drive, just down the road from our office.

Its message? “Thank you for not drinking and driving – love Grandma & Grandpa”.

As opposed to playing at one’s ego (like the texting and driving message), this one pulls at the (presumably younger) motorist’s heart strings. Short of being read by someone who has lost a loved one to drinking and driving, I’m not so sure of the effectiveness of the message … Unfortunately, that blinding, consequence-free “it’ll never happen to me” attitude is seemingly set as the default within the general South African driver’s psyche.

What do you think? Have you seen any similar billboards around Johannesburg (or the country)? We all have family, friends and colleagues, not necessarily involved in the transport industry, who use our roads every day; so, do send us pics and your comments about this road safety campaign.

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