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Is outsourcing just a ploy to dodge responsibility?


Telkom provided me with a telephone service for years. It is now known as the antique “landline”

File image: IOL

I AM NOT sure that I fully understand the notion of “outsourcing” well enough to unpack it. To me, it means that aspects of basic service that resort under a clearly identifiable brand name can claim roubles for their work. Then they delegate part of what they do to subsidiaries while still collecting the respect and revenue from a trusting public.

I wish to test three instances.

Telkom provided me with a telephone service for years. It is now known as the antique “landline”.

Then they stopped replacing faulty telephones, redirecting us to Telkom “shops”. With the advent of the internet information highway, Telkom retained the brand but outsourced the maintenance of the service. When I logged a complaint they promised a technician would contact me to arrange for repairs. I am still waiting. In the meantime, my monthly R600 plus bill is still paid to Telkom.

Then there is Bonitas, my beloved and reliable medical aid. It provides for every medical contingency that the package of your choice requires. When I called in to ask for permission to see an ophthalmologist, I was transferred to a number in the north.

The people who answered me were incredulous as to why I would talk to them. They only did lenses, spectacles and other physical appurtenances related to the eye-care section of Bonitas. After a merry-go-round of transfers from one phone number to another, I eventually got to see the right doctor. The monthly payment goes to Bonitas, not the auxiliary providers that they had put in place without consulting me.

Then there is the problem of transport for pupils, from primary to tertiary level. During my years of teaching, our greatest nightmare was taking pupils on excursions. We were alert for injury, because the Education Department insisted on indemnification forms signed by parents. Nowadays the transport of pupils is undertaken by private companies (and individuals) and one wonders about this indemnity issue. In the case of a mishap, who does one talk to?

Remember, since the advent of freedom, we are aware of our legal rights, and lawyers are standing by for class-action lawsuits that we only experienced via the vicarious American epitome of “Erin Brockovich”.

These days we are ready to sue at the drop of a hat. As Tom Robbins says in his novel Villa Incognito, the route to the end of the rainbow is littered with torn-up lottery tickets and frivolous lawsuits.

So I conclude that there are smoke-screens devised to redirect final responsibility while retaining brand credibility.

How deep does it go? How cleverly are the corporates able to duck and dive and avoid final responsibility for lung cancer, soiled oceans and mutilated passengers? Does someone have an answer for me, please?