Monday, July 14, 2014

Why is "Planning" Anathema to Civil Servants?

Why is it that senior civil servants are so unable at planning and leading their staff and government departments? Do they enjoy failure and the public ridicule? Do they care? How is it that they so fundamentally fail to understand what the law requires of them? Is it gross incompetence? Is it intentional, as they certainly never suffer any consequence (except for a bit of "re-deployment" perhaps even to a better paying cushy job?

One cant help but ask these rhetorical questions given the largest fishing rights allocation failure - FRAP 2013 - in South African fisheries management history where not a single person has been held accountable, fired or forced to apologise to the SA fishing industry and public. And the FRAP 2013 disaster is immediately being followed up by the same planning and governance failures in the abalone fishery (rights expire in 15 days' time with the department having done nothing in planning and preparation), the large pelagics fishery (rights expire in 7 months' time with the department having done nothing (again) in planning and preparation) and in the hake inshore trawl, horse mackerel, toothfish, lobster, beach seine, seaweed and net fisheries (rights expire in these fisheries between 30 September and 31 December 2015). And despite the repeated warnings by Feike (again...sigh) and more importantly by the department's own commissioned report into FRAP 2013 that a lawful and proper rights allocation process requires at least 3 years of advanced preparation and planning, we are once again told that the 2015 rights allocation process will proceed and that there is sufficient time! 

What is even more frightening is that this anathema to planning, accountability, respect for the rule of law and just plain responsible governance, is not limited to the fisheries branch. In 12 month's time, permits in South Africa's lucrative whale watching and shark cage diving sectors must be re-allocated and the department of environmental affairs is refusing to consult permit holders - many of whom have invested millions of rands in vessels, sophisticated websites and international markets - on the processes for the next permit allocation process. Permits were last allocated in 2011. 

Some permit holders have been told that they can expect further communication on the permit process next year only! If the environmental affairs' own past performance and timetable are considered, it is clear that it will need no less than 24 months to complete a permit allocation process. And it is not that the department had to deal with thousands of applications. 

It was on 18 August 2009 that the environmental affairs department invited whale watching and shark cage diving applications from the industry and public at large. In total, the department received 77 applications (51 whale watching applications and 26 shark cage diving applications). The final decisions in these two sectors were only taken on 11 March 2011 (whale watching) and 25 July 2011 (shark cage diving). A more inefficient and slow process can hardly be imagined -  77 applications decided over a period of 23 months!

At that rate, and assuming the department of environmental affairs eventually invites applications in June 2015 (assuming further that it is able to obtain comment on the current policies and regulatory framework and is able to amend these in 12 months flat), the South African whale watching and shark cage diving sectors will face the same level of crisis, chaos and mismanagement that has come to define fisheries management in the post FRAP 2013 era. 

And that will not be good for tourism, jobs or investments. But of course, it is apparent by now that our politicians and their cadre civil servants are not remotely concerned with these. 

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