Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The woes of processing a Driving Permit in Uganda.

It is the norm in every country for the citizens to be expected to have official paper work for company registration, cross border travel and to also be able to operate a motor vehicle.  I am usually one to comply and make sure that I have all these documents in order but for one reason or the other I did not renew my driving permit when it expired after 3 years. 

This is greatly due to the fact that 3 months before its expiry it was stolen with all my documents in a mugging and the process of replacement was pretty tedious. I decided that the most important documents I needed for the time being were the ones I would replace right away such as ATM cards, work identification cards etc.

So my permit expired and I did not renew it for about 2 years and 2 months and when I finally got around to it I really expected the process to be painless since my details were already in the system. I picked up the paper work, got a police letter, advertised the lost permit in the new vision news paper, filled in the renewal paperwork, paid the necessary fees and proceeded to the URA office in Bwaise for processing. It took some time for the processing but I decided the weekend was not a long wait so when I went back the following week and the paperwork was approved with the URA sticker that possessed the bar code I assumed all was in order. On I went to Face Technologies Kyambogo and followed the queue all the way to the service area not expecting to have any issues.

Me: “Good afternoon.”

Face Technology Female Staffer: “Good afternoon, do you recall your previous driving permit number?”

Me: “I am afraid not this is a replacement from a theft.”

Face Technology Female Staffer: “Go back to the customer care counter and they will assist you. After which you will come back.”

Me: “Okay thank you.”

Now please understand this, I moved out of this service processing area to the customer care queue and was assisted with my previous permit number after I gave the lady my details for date of birth. She then sent me back to the processing area from which I had come. However, I did find a queue and did have to wait in line.

Face Technology Female Staffer: “Do you have the number?”

Me: “Yes I do, this is it.”

Face Technology Female Staffer:  “Okay, give me a minute.”

So after less than a minute of keying in my number she began to vigorously scribble on my paper work and handed it over.

Face Technology Female Staffer: “Go to customer care desk.”

I looked down at the cover sheet from my paper work only to see written in red “CANCELLED.”

Me: “What does this mean – CANCELLED?”

Face Technology Female Staffer: “Go to the customer care desk for more details, next!” she said without even butting an eyelid with a vacant look on her face as a robot would.

I walked back to the reception and found a different lady manning it.

Me: “Hello, I was sent to the reception for further clarification on this,” I said as I handed her my paper work.

Receptionist: “Oh yes, your permit is cancelled.”

Me: “Yes I can see that, but what does that mean. What is the implication of that?”

Receptionist: “You start afresh!”

Me: “Excuse me what does that mean, start afresh from which stage.”

Receptionist: “No it is like you have never had a permit before. So you have to get a learner permit, do the driving test and then reprocess the temporary permit.”

Me: “Why, when I am already in the system. Why did they cancel my permit in the first place? What about the fees I have already paid for replacement.”

Receptionist: “You know it is because you delayed to replace it.”

 Me: “So how long between date of expiry and replacement for it to be cancelled.”

Receptionist: “If you exceed 2 years, then it is cancelled no win your case if you had come 2 months back in May we would have processed a renewal.”

Me: “So when did this take effect? Did you inform the public of this change?”

Receptionist: “It is not us it is URA who instructed us to cancel the permits after 2 years. This is the new system. I do not know if they did but it was changed recently.”

Me: “So I begin the process like a learner – is that even fair.”

Receptionist: “No it is not but that is the system.”

Me: “Okay thank you,” Is all I said as I walked away stunned at the time, effort and hoped not also money I had wasted.

I decided to visit the URA office in Bwaise to attempt to get a refund so that I could contemplate restarting the tedious process; only to be told that since it was coming to the end of their financial year in June it may be extremely unlikely I would receive the refund. I did due diligence and went to the relevant offices and got bounced from one desk to another and they all agreed that the payments were captured and my receipts were in order but I never did receive my refund. However through this messy process, I was fortunate to find out that the fees were going to be revised and increased by the end of the financial year as well so I begrudgingly took advantage of this information and quickly redid the entire process. I picked up my permit this week but all I wondered as I held it in my hand is whether this process should be this difficult in the first place. In Rwanda, if you have all the necessary documents in order an individual can register a company in one day.

So when someone is pulled over for not having a driving permit I completely understand because the system is broken and I do not think anyone is even trying to fix it. Only in Uganda. queue
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