BACK to school. Christmas and New Year festivities are over. Family members from far and wide come to stay with us. We are very pleased when they come. We are very pleased when they go.
London 1942. 'Don't you know there is a war on?' This was a standard response by a server to a hapless customer/client who had the temerity to observe that the standard of service, whether due to laziness, sloppiness, incompetence or worse, was less than satisfactory. The response had the advantages that (a) it was not feasible for the customer to be able to assemble immediately a cogent yet polite reply (and most of us do not want to be impolite), thereby making it difficult for him to pursue his, possibly well-founded, grievance and (b) the unsatisfactory treatment meted out to the customer was being defused by blaming it on an unseen third party with whom it was impossible to engage.
Fast forward to Bacolod 2010. 'There's been a computer glitch.' This has the same effect. It absolves the server from blame. It is not possible for the customer to make any progress in restoring the satisfactory situation. The customer loses. Depending on his temperament, he accepts the loss with equanimity and with the fatalism with which the Filipino has gained an international recognition, or he is seething with righteous but unproductive anger.
There are exceptions. On New Year's Eve, a friend was stranded in a strange, distant town with no associates, no food, no accommodation and above all, no money. He had, however, a Sterling Bank ATM (prepaid account card where loading is done upfront in the bank) so there should have been no difficulty in arranging the transfer. But there was a computer glitch- a genuine one - so that it was impossible to make what should have been a routine transfer. Fortunately, the officer from Sterling Bank, Bacolod had the initiative to circumvent the computer glitch and save the financial embarrassment of our friend in the faraway town. Thank you Aiza.
All glitches, and all computer glitches, are ultimately man- made. Too often, the word glitch is used in a way that absolves everyone from any responsibility. This philosophy does not help to solve the problem, nor does it suggest that action will be taken to prevent the glitch from happening again.
We believe that all glitches within an organization should be reported and managed. The company's senior management should be aware of any irregular incident, no matter how small, and to note what action has been taken to prevent a recurrence. This is not micro-management. This is merely paying attention to detail. Too often, in our large organizations, we sense that senior management is sheltered from what is going on. Reports reaching senior levels are filtered and sanitized. The whole story never emerges. This results in erroneous decision-making and can cause management to appear to be inept.
On Christmas Day, a plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit narrowly escaped a mid-air explosion initiated by a suicide bomber. It has since transpired that much information had been provided to the US authorities about the failed bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old student. Firstly, his father, a senior banker, alerted officials at the US Embassy in Lagos about his son's increasingly hard-line Islamic religious beliefs. Such an occurrence, where a father warned authorities about the radicalization of his son, must be quite rare and therefore should have been taken seriously. But it is not apparent whether this led to any action. A glitch.
The Americans also had information about the Nigerian undergoing training with a radical group in Yemen, but this, apparently, did not cause any action to be taken to, for example, monitor his movements. Another glitch.
President Obama has a glitch aversion philosophy and it is unlikely that he will do nothing to prevent a recurrence. Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano may need to consider her position.
Glitches happen due to inadequate supervision. Subsidiaries of reputable international companies, due to the sometimes tenuous links with the parent company, are often glitch-prone.
Recently, the World Bank has barred a Russian subsidiary of Germany's Siemens from participating in World Bank projects for four years, citing evidence of fraud and corruption [Unfair! EC de Luma received a permanent ban]. The action came after a World Bank investigation into corrupt practices involved in the Bank-funded Moscow Urban Transport Project.
The World Bank announced a comprehensive settlement with Siemens. Under this agreement, Siemens will have to pay $100 million over the next fifteen years to support anti-corruption work. The irony is not lost on us. If you want to acquire funding for corruption eradication programs, then get the corrupt to pay for it!
The Insurance Commission (IC) is tasked with glitch avoidance in the insurance industry. The recent inclusion of pre-need companies within the purview of the IC provides a formidable additional challenge to the Commission to avoid glitches of all kinds. We wish the Commission all the best in their endeavors.
Recently, the commission has awarded a new license to sell insurance policies to erstwhile pre-need entity CAP General Insurance Corp. Initially, CAP had failed the IC's net worth test, but apparently CAP has now met the requirements. We believe that the net worth constraint is a necessary but not sufficient condition to grant CAP a license to sell insurance policies. We also believe that the IC should actively solicit information from those who have had experience with insurance companies which currently provide a far from glitch-free zone.
On Saturday, it was reported that the NBI had charged three members of the Universal Insurance Transport Accident Agency Solutions (Unitrans) with stealing over P9 million worth of insurance policy forms. The NBI investigation arose from Unitrans president Ma Paulette Chandrico whose internal investigation linked three employees to the anomaly.
We trust that those who paid insurance premiums to Unitrans have the Insurance cover that they paid for.
Glitches are far too prevalent these days.