Citizens get only silence

2017-08-28 13:44
Man's long, long struggle to get refund from City.

Man's long, long struggle to get refund from City. (File)

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If there is one common aspect to almost every query Witness Warriors receives, it is this — “We just get the silent treatment from the municipality” or “No one is answering the phones at the call centre”.

One reader, John Brownell, received a response from the municipality 20 months after his first attempt to get hold of someone.

Brownell’s quest to get answers goes back to October 2015, when he tried to get a rates refund due to his wife for a property she had sold.

He said as soon as the property transfer was finalised, he forwarded all the necessary documentation to the municipality to expedite the refund.

“There was neither acknowledgement, nor a refund. Months went by and when numerous follow-up letters were similarly ignored, I approached our city councillor for assistance,” he said.

Brownell said this elicited an e-mail from a municipal official who provided another e-mail address to which he said Brownell’s query should be directed.

“The process began all over again. More months passed, there were more follow-up e-mails, but neither acknowledgement nor any action,” he said.

Two more approaches to the councillor and two further attempts by him to assist finally resulted in a phone call from a municipal official (the first response from the municipality).

However, Brownell said the e-mail chain, since that phone call in May, now runs to 34 separate communications.

In the process he said he learned that, “according to the system”, the refund was processed on November 19, 2015 and paid into his wife’s bank account on an unspecified date in January 2016.

“Since we had no evidence of a deposit, I asked, on a number of occasions, for the necessary proof. Finally, in mid-July I received an e-mail acknowledging that there had never been a refund,” he said.

But Brownell was asked to provide his wife’s current bank statement and was assured that he would be notified as soon as the deposit had been effected, and told that the amount due for the refund would not include any interest.

The requisite bank statement was e-mailed by him the next day — it was the third time that he had provided the information.

After three more weeks of silence he e-mailed his contact person, but there was no acknowledgement.

On Friday last week, after a month of silence, Brownell again queried the delay and was “thrilled” to have an immediate response. It read: “Automatic reply. I am presently out of the office. Kindly contact ….......... should you require assistance.”

“It dawned on me that service delivery to committed Msunduzi ratepayers might actually improve if all municipal officials were permanently on leave. There would then at least be a possibility that their computers would acknowledge our e-mails.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  witness warriors

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