Protection of Personal Information Act yet more red tape

Customer information targeted…..

The approval of the Protection of Personal Information Bill, welcome as it is to some, presents yet another example of an over-burdening public service calling for more reporting requirements to the state, in this case particularly affecting the retailing industry, the finance world and legal bodies.

Customer data and information is the subject matter and consumer protection the objective. Whether it will contribute in any way to the business environment was never a subject discussed by the portfolio committee on trade and industry. Nor the minister himself.

Non productive

The Bill now passed also means setting up yet another regulator’s office with, no doubt, an expensive car and an ability to visit many places by air, deputies, a full board appointed by the minister, a team of inspectors, secretaries, a support team of workers, tea makers, office cleaners, renting offices and all the paraphernalia that goes with yet another statutory body.

Every month it seems, a new state entity is created and funded. The new DNA forensics structure, and its extraordinary costs, is the latest, a matter which came up in the relevant portfolio committee.  South Africa has 34 ministers, 33 deputy ministers,159 directors general, 642 deputy director generals, 2 501 chief directors and 7,782 directors. This is according to minister Lindiwe Sisulu in response to a parliamentary question on the subject.

Form filling

Business and industry has plenty to report to government about on a regular basis, called for by half a dozen labour and BEE transformation laws and their regulations, plus sectoral charter requirements; environmental laws; a raft of new financial laws; all aside from the normal but increasingly burdensome taxation, company law, and general secretarial returns and paper work that shower in on a monthly basis.

What used to be a simple head office structure of a company secretary; tax and legal services working with a human resources team; IT; a strategic planner and a communicator,  has morphed in many instances into a major compliance structure to meet government calls.

Also worrying is the fact that the growing maze of regulations are now including fines and criminalisation for non-compliance on any number of issues, some of which are applied to lack of compliance on state policy platforms. This is not healthy. In fact, business is perhaps marching to government policy, not government marching to the needs of business in creating an investment and growth climate.

All rush

In the last few weeks in Parliament, the manner in which carbon tax was approached by treasury and the haste attached to the implementation of a credit amnesty indicates almost irritation because of the voice of business, as if business were getting in the way.    Senior commentators from business and industry in hearings before Parliament, and even those from quasi state utilities, are noting more and more that perhaps cabinet thought processes do not wish to accommodate the mechanics of free enterprise.

Perhaps this is all because of a need to rush to get votes at the next election. We hope so.

Very big brother

South Africa has now reached a situation where the public service bill is 14.3% of GDP,   if state owned entities are included. As Mike Schüssler noted, government now employs more people than the mining sector and the manufacturing sector combined.   He worries about this since the public service makes nothing and exports nothing.

Already, we are told that 40% of South African households are on state welfare, a state with over 25% unemployment.   As the Protection of Personal Information Bill heads towards Tuynhuys for the assent of President Zuma to become law, we shall continue to monitor closely the aspects of parliamentary activity where business and industry seems to be colliding with government on the creation of the right environment for growth and investment.

Creating government jobs and work for public servants is certainly no answer.


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