I mentioned in my last post how the flow of information in the bureaucracy is routinely restricted, which impacts public servants’ effectiveness in their jobs. There’s many ways that this happens, but one of the most common situations is when there’s an elaborate approvals system that gets in your way.
Well, here’s a story from the news last week that can be used to illustrate this — scientists at Environment Canada have had free and easy access to the media cut off. There’s apparently an elaborate approval process that has been set up:
Researchers have been told to refer all media queries to Ottawa. The media office then asks reporters to submit their questions in writing. Sources say researchers are then asked to respond in writing to the media office, which then sends the answers to senior management for approval. If a researcher is eventually cleared to do an interview, he or she is instructed to stick to the “approved lines.”
Burdensome, innit? Given all the steps involved, I’m not sure how often the journalists’ deadlines could be met under this process. In fact, it would appear that the media are already turning to other sources to get the information they once could get from Environment Canada.
“They can’t even now comment on why a storm hit the area without going through head office,” says Mr. Weaver [University of Victoria climatologist], who’s been fielding calls from frustrated media organizations who can no longer get through to federal expert scientists who once spoke freely about their fields of work, be it atmospheric winds affecting airliners or disease outbreaks at bird colonies.
Since these researchers have been used to being open with the media in the past, I’m thinking it will not go down well. SoSaidThe.Org agrees (so I must be right LOL).
But the main point that I’m trying to make here: this story illustrates just one of the many tricks used in the bureaucracy to restrict the flow of information. Burdensome approvals around any activity take time, so they discourage that activity from being undertaken in the first place.