Postal services for all is the aim
The SA Post Office has been working hard to project a new customer-orientated image. CHRIS BARRON looks at how it is going about reaching this goal. Pictures: JEREMY GLYN
THE Post Office inherited a policy framework and consequently postal service provisions which, notes Posts, Telecommunications and Broadcasting Minister Jay Naidoo in the White Paper on Postal Policy launched in May this year, resulted in huge disparities benefiting a single population group.
The redress of these imbalances is essential to the social and economic development of all communities, especially the previously disadvantaged groups.
In particular, the policy framework suggests that the Post Office must ensure greater access to postal services by rebalancing the postal network for equity.
In addition, about 4-million new addresses must be rolled out over the next few years.
"The White Paper creates a framework for the SA Post Office to become a world-class operator in a market which is becoming increasingly competitive," he says.
The White Paper proposes to reduce the size of the monopoly of the SA Post Office. At present the monopoly applies to all letters up to 2kg and it is proposed to reduce this to 1kg. The Post Office will also be licensed and will have to provide a universal postal service.
Furthermore, it states that "it is government's belief that the growth of competition in the sector is healthy for the development of the sector, the economy and the public. Competition will therefore be encouraged by government, subject to the requirements for the achievement of universal service provision and related regulation".
A postal regulator will be established in the ministry with the main aim of achieving universal service and to make regulations for the sector. The regulator will monitor and protect the exclusive rights of the Post Office with respect to the reserved services and will also ensure that the Post Office does not abuse its monopoly position in the market and with respect to its customers.
The White Paper proposes that the tariff increases be regulated through a price-cap methodology, which links tariff increases to the rate of inflation.
The Post Office has been given a financial mandate to reach break-even point within three years. Naidoo indicates that the government is considering a strategic management partnership between the Post Office and an international postal administration. And the government will allow the Post Office to enter into partnership with the private sector.
The corporate governance will be brought in line with the recommendations of the King Report. The Post Office will be managed by a single board, which will consist of executive and non-executive directors. An executive committee will manage day-to-day operations.
The White Paper makes extensive recommendations to the Post Office to promote the economic empowerment of historically disadvantaged communities. It also calls for a comprehensive human resource plan and strategy to be drawn up with clear targets for affirmative action and training.
In addition, the White Paper proposes that SA joins the Pan African Postal Union, a specialised agency of the OAU.
"In line with our foreign policy on the African Renaissance we envisage to play a much more active role in the Southern African Developing Committee (SADC) and on the continent to promote the development of postal services on the continent," says Naidoo.
The Postbank provides a unique opportunity to bring savings and banking services to rural and poor communities and to promote a savings culture in SA.
The Postbank will be repositioned through an evolutionary process to meet the objectives of the Strauss Commission. In phase one it will become a profit centre within the current dispensation. A sub-committee of the board of directors will oversee its activities.
Within the next two to three years it will be corporatised into a subsidiary of the Post Office and will be positioned as a fully fledged savings bank.
The Post Office cannot easily reduce employee numbers, which account for 60% of total operating costs. "This is in line with other countries," says chairman Max Maisela. "Our labour productivity is also comparable to other countries' and we do not consider major staff reductions as a possible cost reduction scenario; the degradation of service prohibits this."