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February 2, 2018

How to Avoid Deviations from Protocol in Government

The following post is in response the the article below:

“Faith Muthambi Is On An Apparent Festive Hiring Spree”

View the article here if you’re interested: Click Here

I have often though of a master algorithm that could control the activities of society and when someone deviated or was dishonest, the master algorithm would not allow them to transact in society because they have shown themselves to take away from progress, rather than promote it.

There is a lot wrong with that view, it’s basically an algorithm playing God, which is very dangerous, and who would design it and over-see its function anyway? That’s not fair for any one person or organisation to design, but I do believe that technology can assist in situations like the one above.

Consider the quote below:

“Public Service Minister Faith Muthambi has allegedly expanded her private office to 40 employees in breach of government policy … The ministerial handbook reportedly says ministers are allowed to hire 10 staff members for their private offices, but this has sometimes been allowed to stretch to 15.”

Here’s the problem: There is too much freedom within the system, the money is very easy to mismanage and there isn’t enough accountability. We can’t rely on humans to manage money and hold each other accountable. This is made worse by organisations that are structured in such a complex way that no one, not even the people working there, can understand or explain.

There needs to be an algorithm that matches the ministerial handbook and will only allow people to do what the handbook has laid out. This algorithm also needs to be one that is unable to change for a predetermined period of time.

A simple example would be for salaries to be paid out of a custom-made bank account (which any SA bank would gladly offer for a fee), that does not allow more than 10 salaries to be paid out each month (if 10 is the number that everyone has collectively decided on). These salaries can also be capped at a predetermined amount for each person for a financial year with a review at the end of that year.

This way, if Faith Muthambi decided to hire 40 people, she would need to convince the 10 people that the algorithm allows to get their salaries to then pay a portion of their salaries to three other people – something that is simply never going to happen.

This is just one example of how technology can mediate between fallen human nature and the need for sound structure and progress in government.

Another more complex layer could be put onto this custom bank account that would determine who was able to be put on the payroll.

Consider the quote below:

“This reportedly included her mother, aunt, sister and son. She also reportedly hired a Limpopo police constable as her personal assistant and hired former SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s 21-year-old daughter.”

An example solution: if each new employee was verified and registered on a database, the bank account could block any payments that are attempting to be made to a family member or someone who has been marked as corrupt or ineligible for some other reason.

It would be easy to get around this system, by paying someone’s salary into an account of someone who is eligible for employment in that organization and then having them transfer it – but that’s something that can be ironed out later on. It’s probably best to get the first system in place and then think about this later.

Implementation of the above would be rather complex, but so important that one would need to overcome that complexity in order for South Africa to move forward and not waste money like Faith does.

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