Implementation of BEE hampered by bad information

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Insufficient information is one of the biggest hurdles to the implementation of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policies and legislation in the workplace, which perpetuates negative attitudes towards BEE, distorts the BEE process, and also devalues those legitimate BEE business owners in the marketplace, Alex Soare of BEESA BoxSmart told SmartProcurement

Referring to the results of a recent survey issued by BEESA BoxSmart, Soare indicated that only 15% of respondents claimed to have a broad knowledge of BEE, with 39% admitting a limited knowledge.

The results indicated that there is a definite need for an Internet based information portal to explain the BEE processes and that the preferred source of information is the Internet with 37% of respondents downloading relevant information. Suggestions included information to simply and clearly explain what is required to become BEE compliant, as well as procedures, opportunities, links to other relevant websites, and external expertise and advice.

However, there is also a need for wider information dissemination to counter negative attitudes towards BEE. These attitudes are complex and are deep-seated in the Apartheid legacy that South Africa has inherited. Underlying resentment, guilt and fear, combined with a lack of practical information, is perpetuating race separatism, this time based on economic participation.

There are still a number of worries about BEE, whether in terms of corrupt practices or inferior skills. In addition, the actual process of implementation is a concern in terms of cost, expertise and procedure. BEESA BoxSmart has been designed to directly combat these concerns.

Although there is a dull acceptance that BEE is a reality, these negative attitudes imply that BEE accreditation is not only done reluctantly, but that potential loopholes around the legislation and compliance will continue to be sought out to avoid issues such as ownership.

However, there is also recognition that complying with BEE can have advantages for business in terms of opportunities. Likewise, the survey results suggested that the BEE policies are intended to redress previous inequalities, which is seen as beneficial.

The survey responses had a commonality to them in that the majority were highly emotive, and included personal examples of how BEE has or has not contributed to business success.

It is interesting to note that even in the current economic environment, and despite a generally negative perception of BEE, 71% of respondents did not perceive BEE as a threat to their business, said Soare.

There appears to be a need for some sort of monitoring system that measures both the effectiveness and impact of these policies as well as compliance by businesses. This need for transparency may contribute to improving attitudes towards BEE at least in terms of perceived fairness.

Although the results of the survey are only indicative of the attitudes of a small percentage of the population, the commonalities that can be drawn from the data indicate that BEE responses tend to be emotional rather than purely practical. Similarly, perceptions around BEE can be said to determine not only willingness to become more informed and empowered about these policies, but also how obstacles are created.
 

Alexander Soare can be contacted at
(T): 011 726 3041 or 082 441 1344 or email him at: alex@boxsmart.co.za

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