A few weeks ago I talked about the nonsense birth certificate requirement to get married on Guam. In general, if a person has a valid government identification or passport, there does not appear to be a valid reason for this requirement. But changing or modifying these kinds of rules involves overcoming a huge amount of bureaucratic inertia.
About 12 years ago, I raised a similar issue about driver’s licenses. At the time, Guam had a strict three-year cycle for license renewal. In effect, a person had to go and stand in a long line every three years simply to get their picture taken and pay a fee. I suggested using the 10-year cycle used by several of the states. In the end, they adopted a three- or five-year cycle. In my opinion, it should still be 10 years. If a passport is good for 10 years, there is no reason to drag people in to wait in a line. Also, I am a big advocate of simply using the same picture on file. I know there are other dynamics such as Real ID at play here, but there has to be better ways to process these things.
Along similar lines, why do we require people to wait in multiple lines for the most part to renew car registrations? There is the insurance line, the car inspection line and at least two more lines to get the registration sticker - one to process and one to pay. Why don’t we allow people to renew their cars for two to three years at a time?
According to W. Edwards Deming, the godfather of total quality management, organizations often fail when they do not follow their own internal rules and regulations. Throughout the government, I see a lot of basic failures happen because managers and board members do not follow or even know the rules. Some managers claim that rules or laws do not apply to them. Given that our systems are difficult to manage anyway, the key value the government appears to focus on is ethics. Leaders are supposed to follow rules or enforce rules because it is the right thing to do.
In my normal fraud examination practice, the fraud triangle consists of pressure, opportunity and rationalization. A person needs money, they get access and then they go through a sort of personal justification for taking it. In the area of pressure, I have noticed over the years that some people engage in these bad acts because of pride. That is to say, there is likely an element that is centered on the rule-breaking delight some may feel when they don’t follow the rules. Or openly break them.
If we couple this with overall bad management, it creates a mix for bad government overall. And no one is ever really held accountable because it is not the job the any single person to enforce rules. Given this point, the government should relook at how it governs.
Ron McNinch teaches at the University of Guam School of Business and Public Administration.