The Telecomms Corporation No One Responsible and No One to Blame

What a curious past week with rain everywhere, so it seemed, but here with the resultant increased attention to the weather reports, to our own frenetic lady weather reporters on BTV, to the daily forecasts of 60, 40, 20 percent chance of rain and to the extraordinary insistence in reporting that somewhere in the back of beyond had recorded rainfall of 0.12 millimeters!

The last rainless week began, for me, with a fortunately rare visit to Bokamoso Hospital. The only people who go to hospitals by choice are those who are visiting friends and relatives who are patients.  The rest of us go when we have no choice and because we seek help of one sort or another.

The process involved in seeking and obtaining that help can be tricky, however, and those who embark on it need much patience and considerable skill in understanding how the varying systems work and in each department, what to do and what not to do. 

It will be the assumption of the hospital’s administrators that all its procedures are straightforward and obvious.

My own impression is that it would be perfectly possible that someone is found at the end of the day still waiting in one or another department because they had not known that to be included in the queue they had first to pick up a number.

The problem with all these join-the queue-systems are that many have their own peculiarities – and if you are unaware how each works, you are likely to be in some trouble.

 That particular point can surely be made about the BCTL, better known to everyone as the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, which had informed me by letter dated 1st December - but only just arrived), as I assume it has informed you, that the said BTCL carried out  ‘(a) migration exercise in December 2013 and that, ‘it is worth noting (ha!) that in the process of migration not all international calls made between December 2013 and July 2014 were billed.

The anomaly was rectified indicating that 30% of the total call amount went through while 70% is still to be billed. BCTL regrets to inform you …BTCL sincerely apologises for this technical glitch…BTCL assures you of continuous working relationship…and would like to apologise for any inconvenience…and that you will be billed.  Blah. Blah, blah. As an example of bureaucratic mumbo jumbo, this letter really should be regarded as a classic of its kind.

The BCTL cannot quite bring itself to admit that it made a mess of things, so it blames system error for what has happened, i.e. migration, not human error.

But not one of its many customers asked it to migrate or not to migrate. The decision to do so was taken by its top management which, at the time, would have presumed that it knew exactly what it was doing. 

In the event, the migration thing – whatever it was – resulted in a technical hitch which had not been anticipated. 

 Instead of accepting that its own management was entirely responsible for the loss of historical information and thus of income, the BTCL is now shifting that responsibility on to its customers. This is really very bad. Many commercial businesses – and let’s assume that BTCL is of that kind - will attempt to pass on to the clients and customers the cost of the blunders they themselves have made – but these attempts will always be sleazy, grubby and morally questionable.  

The BTCL messed it up and must now bite the bullet.  To transfer to its own customers the responsibility for putting right what it did wrong is repugnant.  In a more generalised sense, this particular pattern has become commonplace. 

Too often, those who have senior management positions and are thus exceptionally well paid, find easy ways of opting out by blaming the new systems that they themselves have introduced whilst absolving themselves of any responsibility for what has then transpired.

For, BTCL its options were obvious. Either it wrote off its lost income or it accepted that those who were responsible for this loss should be personally required to make it good. 

Naïve of me, of course to suggest that anything of the kind might ever be a possibility - because power and money rarely works that way.

But if you ever wonder why we seem to have lost the plot - hold on to the BTCL letter as a classic example of the way that those on top take the salaries and the comfort but are unwilling to accept the responsibility that should go with it. 

It wasn’t anyone at BTCL who caused the problems. The problem, please understand, was caused by migration and by a technical hitch.

And as the BTCL would wish us to understand, such problems cannot be avoided or anticipated.  Believe that and you will believe anything!

Editor's Comment
Not yet uhuru

The SoE has been in place for close to 18 months as a measure to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.Despite the uncertainties that the end of SoE bring, many people are happy that government has finally seen it fit not to extend it.But, sorry to burst your bubble, the pandemic won’t be over until our nation and the rest of the world have reached herd immunity. We must know that we are not out of the woods yet. This simply means that we can’t be...

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