Battling bureacracy – could a Godmother help?

So, here’s the first thing:

I worked in compliance – in the post-school education and training sector – for a long time.  My work involved helping providers become accredited in terms of the legislation which in turn necessitated the development of business plans, quality and policy and procedure manuals, not to mention the development of training and assessment materials.  I was also involved in setting up systems for auditing accredited entities, etc., etc.  I have also prepared more project proposals and tenders, filling in the requisite forms than I care to think about.

Each organisation is different and necessitates one doing it THAT way and filling in a GAZILLION forms.  Or, if I was on the other side of the fence, setting things up so that bureaucrats – not usually the sharpest tools in the shed – could do their jobs.  Without having to engage their brains.  I could wax lyrical about this, too, but I’ll save that.  The rest of this story speaks for itself.

I also worked as a volunteer leader in the sector for many years, including in the fundraising field and with street children at the height of Apartheid’s total onslaught in the 1980’s.  Simultaneous with that, my pay job was with an industry body – managing and administering committees and a bursary scheme.

As a consequence I know how to construct an argument to do battle and have a pretty good grasp of how bureaucracies work.  Or don’t.  Similarly, I also understand that there is – or should be – recourse and a process to follow if there is some sort of SNAFU.

The advent of democracy in South Africa introduced an entirely new approach to working with people, inherent in which is the principle of appealing a decision.  It’s embedded in the education and training system so that a student can appeal a result and has recourse through the system to its apex body.  I know, it is a requisite for any training provider and quality assurance body.  I helped them to put appropriate processes and tools in place.

A defendant in the criminal justice system can appeal to a higher court if s/he does not agree with a judgement; similarly for a traffic fine.

Debtors get periods of grace and/or penalties if they pay late.  Similarly, taxpayers could be prosecuted, but have the opportunity to defend themselves before it reaches such a drastic stage.

Surely the same principle should apply to the holder of all licences that are annually renewable?  Even motor vehicle owners have a month’s grace after their licences have expired and before they are fined.

Following the logic of these examples, one would think that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, wouldn’t one?

Well, clearly not.

A friend in the village who runs a small business – so small that it is owner-run and has no staff – was two days late in paying her licence.  She knew that it was overdue and when she paid, she paid an additional sum, in good faith, anticipating that there would be a penalty.  She had been told by the local inspectorate that if she paid and retained the proof of payment, everything would be hunky dory.

So it was, until she receives a telephone call SEVEN AND A HALF MONTHS after the payment was made.  The gist of the conversation:

“Your licence has lapsed because you paid late.

“Your payment, however, was only “posted” some six weeks after reflecting in the licensing body’s bank account.

“We will send you a form so that you can apply for a refund.

“You must now apply for a new licence.  From scratch.”

No, he was not kidding.

As of the close of business yesterday, she is cannot trade.

She has yet to receive the form that she’s required to fill in to get her money back.

And here’s the other thing:

This particular licence, from submission of the application to a decision, takes just shy of a year – if one is lucky.  While one is waiting for the outcome of the application, one is paying rent on premises and investing funds on fitting it out and all the time having to keep body and soul together.  If the type of business is dependent on the licence, that means that the owner must have significant resources or other sources of income to keep going.

A year with no income and no return on an investment?

What sane person or institution would back a business under those circumstances?

Making a living in a village is tough and when you have a micro, survivalist business, and no independent means, it’s even harder.  And to get shut down and lose your livelihood because of a bungle?

This brings me to the next thing.

My friend, we’ll call her Q, among others, often use me as a sounding board and for help cobbling ideas into a concept that can be written up and potentially put into action.  That’s all well and good, but most of us are in the same boat.  Not a lot of money to throw around and if I spend time on helping them, I’m not helping myself because I’m not earning.  Like all of us, I have bills to pay.

Could I go to a platform like GoFundMe and raise funds so that I can work with folk who would like to draw on my skills and expertise but can’t afford to?  The challenge, of course, is that some of the ideas may be hare-brained and never see the light of day, unlike Q who has a young and viable business, highly valued in the community.

Which brings me back to that situation.  Q has had to stop trading which means she loses more than just income – custom will go elsewhere;  she will have to continue paying rent and suppliers – or return the stock if they will take it.  And that’s just a start.

I think she should fight this, and she needs help from someone like me to work with her on it and possibly legal help, too.  Neither of us has the resources to take this on, nor do I have time to spend on it without remuneration.

Do you think that a GoFundMe campaign, to fund a Godmother, has merit for a project like this, and others, to get worthy and tourism-friendly initiatives off the ground in a village like ours?

There it is – until next time

The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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