In the past two weeks or so, we saw that drivers were stopped and checked by traffic police officers and many of them, subsequently, had to remove part of the number plates (the front one)from their cars and hand it over. I wondered what was going on and later found out that the police were checking whether or not vehicles were insured.This I found interesting, as the road license is no longer issued without proof of insurance coverage and vehicle owners are supposed to display both the road license and insurance sticker on the windshield of their cars. Normally, both the issued road license and insurance coverage should be valid for the same period and that may be the reason why the dates of insurance is often not filled in on the insurance sticker. However, since last year, the annual vehicle inspection includes the testing of cars with a new system. Computerised equipment was introduced to test the quality and balance of the brakes and also to measure the exhaust gas emission levels of the car. This is a good thing as adding such testing to the otherwise limited physical inspection will presumably lead to having safer and cleaner cars on the road. However, some time elapsed before the necessary equipment was brought into the country and installed in several locations, which delayed the annual inspection process by a few months. Vehicle owners who wanted their cars inspected on time were told to wait until the new equipment was installed. Once it was installed, the annual inspection began, but with a backlog of a few months. While previously the inspection was outsourced to a number of companies and the vehicle owner would have the car inspected within a relatively short time, the new system was installed and available at only twelve locations throughout the country, of which six are in Addis Ababa. As a result, the annual inspection process was faced with a backlog of a few months and with a limited capacity to meet the demand. Meanwhile, insurance coverage and annual inspection certificates were no longer at par. So there are many cars driving around with a valid road license sticker but with an insurance sticker which doesn’t indicate the exact period of the insurance cover. The authorities were right to assume that many vehicles were in fact not insured, a good enough reason for the traffic police to check this out. Bingo! Many drivers seemed surprised, if not shocked, dreading the process of recovering their number plates to be on the road again. Their plans for the day were instantly ruined. I was told that the police inspection was announced in the media to make vehicle owners aware of the pending scrutiny. However, we cannot assume the information reached all concerned, as evidenced by the reaction of some.
The interesting question is then: “Who is responsible?” The Transport Authority? The Insurance Fund Office? The insurance companies? The vehicle owner? The driver?
I suspect most will point their finger in every direction but their own. There always seems to be something or someone else to blame when things are not going well; some other person or condition is causing or has caused the situation we are in.
On the road, it is the other drivers; at school it is the teacher or the test; at home it is the husband or the wife or the children. And in business? It is the workers or the administrator, the tax collector or the importer, the exporter, the forwarder, the government, the policy, the regulations, the internet, etc. Really? Is it normally somebody or something else or could it be that we ourselves are part of the problem? Let us take a closer look at this issue. In Ethiopia it is always the fault of something or somebody else. We say: “The glass fell down” instead of “I dropped the glass.” We prefer to declare that things happen to us instead of recognising and acknowledging that we play an active part in the situation. Many business people blame their problems on others or external circumstances. They are not to blame themselves, they think. They think of themselves as hardworking or if you favour the word, industrious. They find it difficult to accept that they may be making a mistake, that they are part of the problem themselves, that they are responsible.
Bearing responsibility is an intriguing concept. It is clearly portrayed in the way we respond to situations, to other people, to literally anything that comes our way. That ability to respond in a measured and responsible way, with clarity, is a skill that can be developed. Yes, the way we react is determined or influenced a great deal by our culture and the way we have been brought up, by our role models who would normally be our parents, teachers, bosses or leaders. Although influences are unavoidable, those that adversely affect a responsible and healthy response should be not be repeated.
In other words, we are in a position to choose the way we respond and if we base our responses on certain values and principles, chances are higher that our responses will have better results.
When running a business, the responsibilities are many. The ability of the business owner or manager to respond responsibly to the internal and external environment of the business will in the end determine whether the business will be a mediocre or a successful one. There are choices to be made. How to respond for instance to developments in the market, policy changes, suggestions from workers, demands from clients? This is where you have the opportunity to set the standards and lead the company where you want it to go.
Going back to the example of vehicle insurance coverage, who is responsible? Ultimately the owner of the vehicle I guess, but in fact all carry some responsibility, I would say. There is a certain measure of customer care and pro-activity at play here as well. Insurance companies should send renewal notices to their customers, for example (mine does). The Transport Authority and the insurance companies could have seen this coming, following the delays caused by the introduction of the new inspection process, and could have taken some preventive measures. In conclusion, we should all learn from this, own up to our responsibilities and try to prevent something similar happening again.