Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Aoife goes twittering

As I have not been active for some time, I'm moving to Twitter for now but I hope to be posting again soon. Although most likely on business, HR & Recruiting, science and anything else that pops into my head...

Follow me on @aoifehegarty

Friday, 30 November 2007

The Kigali Expat Housing Roundabout

Recently Bettine came back to Kigali after a 3 year absence – her husband is back again working for DED, a German government cooperation agency. She told me I was one of the few people still around from her former days, Kigali expats usually have a two year or under turn around time…there’s only a few odd characters who stay longer.

Bettine told me a good story the other day. She had been invited to a party at someone’s house and while being given directions to the place, she suddenly realized that the part was in fact being held at her previous residence.

Strange, incestuous ex-pat circles…

Surely you're joking Mr Kagame

Immigration deposit? Immigration donation, more like...

The tale of my battle to wrestle back my 1000USD from the Goverment of Rwanda continues. I went to Immigration on that Monday and after waiting two hours and nearly having a melt down in the process, I finally got my letter.

So its happily ever after? Not quite....
Immigration tell me I need to bring the slip to Rwanda Revenue Authority to get my cash. So bright and early the next morning I go to the shiny new RRA offices (all paid for by the British taxpayer I might add). I talked to 3 different people before I finally found somone who understood I was trying to get my deposit back and not PAY it! There was then a little confusion since I paid the deposit to the Banque Nationale de Rwanda in 2005 and since then operations have changed and been taken over by RRA. After a few phone calls to the boss, we were in business. I was told to call the Acting Head of Finance the following friday to see if she had treated my request. Y'see as the letter from Immigration was addressed to the Commisioner General of RRA, the commisioner would have to review the letter and scribble something on it before it would be treated.

I was busy on Friday so I called back last Monday morning instead, where I talked to the nice Finance lady a couple of times before we worked out that I could pick up my letter on Tuesday morning. When I got there on Tuesday I found the new building atomspherically being circled by vultures. My friend Kieran the Taxman, a fellow Irish working on a DFID contract in RRA for more years then he cares to admit, assured me that that birds of prey were there for the crickets who swarm on the building becuase of the floodlights and not because of any kinship between taxmen and vultures. In any case I felt like I was approaching the bad guys castle in some fairy story.

After an hour of waiting for the finance lady to come to her office or answer her phone, I left. Sometime around 2pm, she called to say I could pick up the letter so I went back and got the letter. The copy of a letter address to the Secretary General of the National Treasury in Minecofin (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning), directing THEM to repay my immigration deposit.

Lets recap here: in order to get 1000usd back I have had to spend 5 weeks and visit no less than 6 goverement and parastatal bodies looking for various forms. Now I've been around enough to know about the convoluted processes in goverment but this was getting bloody riduculous. The National Treasury were now getting involved in the fiasco?!?

After another small meltdown and taking the decision that this was not the week to reduce my dose of tranquilizers, I hopped on a moto and went to Minecofin to see what horrors awaited me there.

I was shown to the central secretariat where I found the ICT director, who I knew from my time with the Ministry of Infrastructure. After the usual greetings and general chit chat it was ascertained that the orginal of my letter had not yet arrived from RRA - where I had just come from! I was silently fuming....why give me a copy of a letter and tell me to investigate here and leave the orginal back at the office I just came from...everyone told me it was madness to chase the immigration deposit, now I was fuelled by pure thickheadedness...the more shit they threw at me, the more determined I was to cut through it. Maybe that IS the definition of madness??

So, the nice lady at the secretariat told me there was nothing they could do for me that day, esp since all the directors were at the annual Goverment-Donor hug in for the next 2 days. The DPCG Conferenence as its called proports to be a partnership excercise between GoR and its main donors but mostly serves to tell the Govt what the donors are prepared to give money for in the next year so that they can adjust their plans accordingly. So I left in search of some lunch and some tranquilizers.

I returned for more punishment yesterday morning, to be told that the letter had only just reached the secretary of the SG of the national tresury and that I should check back next monday 3rd dec.

My flight to Europe leaves on 16th and I was hoping to get out of Rwanda before then. Its looking a bit tight though...once the SG gives his order the cash goes from the National Treasury to the National Bank and then to my Bank. God only knows how long that will that. As a side note, back in 2005 when I made the deposit the process pretty much stopped once Immigration gave the all clear. Immigration would issue a letter to the National Bank to pay back the money, in cash if desired - essentially subventing the whole RRA-Minecofin-Bank transfer route.

Sometimes there's nothing like progress to really screw things up...

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Yet another day at the bank...

I went to Central Bank today to try and cash my cheques from KIST. There's so much overhead in terms of staff time to prepare and sign cheques, then take them to be cashed that I wonder why they don't have a system whereby employees can get paid via bank transfer for off payroll monies. I guess that would be far too sensible...

Although the queue is small, I wait in line for ages as the cashier disappeared off somewhere for a while. I'm 3rd in line behind the customer being served and an enormous man in a suit. Some friend of his approaches and they banter a bit, the friend ending with the question in Kinyarwanda "is this your mzungu?" obviously intended for me and with not too subtle, lecherous undertones. I banshee them both in French, pointing out that I have nothing to do with his friend and that its extremely rude to talk about someone as if they weren't there. The friend looked suitably chastend and sloped off, and I'm left looking like a bit of a loon. Again.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Immigration has the last laugh....

So I need to get my immigration deposit back, almost 1000USD held by the national bank of rwanda untill I can prove I'm a good girl and get it back again. But the process is so long and problematics that most expats I know just leave it in the bank!

Knowing this, I hire a student to do the running around for me. Get immigration to sign a paper authorising BNR to pay you back your deposit currently requires:

Clearance Certificate from Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA)
Clearance Certificate from Caisse Social (CSR) , social security agency
Clearance Certificate from Electrogaz, the water and electricity company
Clearance Certificate from Rwandatel
Copy of passport
Copy of visa
The orginal deposit recieving certificate from BNR
plus the ORGINAL bank slip on which the deposit was made

Clearance certificates essentially state that you owe no debt to the institution. Rwandatel and CSR were fairly easy as I never used their services. RRA meanwhile, require you to apply for a Tax number in order for them to tell you that your (brand new) tax number has no tax oweing on it. Ahh...the wonders of well implemented IT systems in government. Electrogaz required my prepaid electricity meter number (hello? debts on prepaid systems??), the rental contract with my landlord (which i only had for 2005, but solved with some creative photocopying), and a letter from the friend with whom I've been staying since the rental period elapsed stating I have no obligations on bills at his place. Each institution of course required a fee for the certificate which needs to be paid, in advance, at the revenue office in the city centre.

So last friday, my student finished her work and presented me with the 4 certificates after a mere 2 weeks of full time running around Kigali. Best 50$ I spent in a long time. And I depose my papers at Immigration to be told that all was in order and that I could collect my BNR repayment instructions yesterday. I go there yesterday and wait an hour to be told that there was an error and someone forgot to take it to be signed, but all is in order and I should come back today. I ask if I can call someone to see if its ready before coming again. I get a number.

So today I call over 6 times to the number, which no one picks up. I'm already pretty pissed at the guy for giving a number that no one answers - its the guys own mobile I later find out. So 45 mins later when I get to see him, he tells me its not signed becuase I need to bring in my current work permit to be cancelled because I'm leaving Rwanda. I point out that the deposit relates to my 2005 work permit and thats already cancelled, and anyway I can claim my money back without leaving Rwanda.

He tells me thats true but since I stated on the demand letter that I'm leaving, now I have to bring in the work permit. Bollox! The lady at work who deals with visas has my work permit in her office...or at least she did before she left her job to join her husband in the uk. What do you think my chances of finding this particular needle in the administrative haystack??

For the next 30mins I proceed familiarise the guy with KIST administration, flight problems, resignation memos waiting for the orginal copy to reach to finance from salaries, the logical premise of the deposit being attached to OLD permit not my current one until he relented and saw that it was more of a pain in the ass not to help me than to help me (this is usually the only way to get service in govt offices here). So he made a few calls and it was agreed if I change my cover letter to remove a reference to leaving rwanda AND brought a copy of my current contract, I could collect the signed certificate to present to BNR that same day. I was still furious and upset at the same time, I didn't know whether to cry or punch the wall. It was a timely reminder of exactly why I can no longer operate in this country.

After a lunchtime spent in immigration, I hurried back to work hungry and found the HR guy in the hope he'd be able to give me a copy of my contract. My plan was to print a cover letter and get my collegue at work to deposit the docs and collect the certificate for me, as I couldn't stand to see Immigration again, PLUS if I came back on monday they may have changed their minds and wanted yet another document from me. I couldn't go myself as I had a presentation to make.

In the end almost no one turned up for the presentation because of rain and my collegue came back emptyhanded because I had failed to impress upon him enough that he should not listen to the Immigration guy but should stand there and annoy him till he got the certificate signed. Now I'm left with a particularly Rwandan ex-pat afflication: Post Immigration visit Homicidal rage syndrome.

And I have to go back there on monday...

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Another day at the Bank...

I had to go to my Bank today to get them to authenticate my signature so that UBS in Switzerland can open an account for me before I get to Europe. This is so I can pay my appartment deposit so I can get the keys when I arrive. Honestly with Rwanda exit process and Swiss entry process, I may be a dribbling mess by the time i arrive. But I digress...

I am directed to a Customer Manager chick with an office and while she is gone to verify my signature with the one held on their computer, a couple of random Rwandans come into her office and talk among themselves, not really acknowledging me. Untill I hear the guy say to the woman in Kinyarwanda "Oh, this is a nice looking white lady". I turn and say thanks to him in Kinyarwanda and they both howl with laughter. And I'm in a good mood, but I still dislike the habit here of talking behind peoples back while being in front of their face, just because you assume they can't understand you.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

The dangers of flaunting contraband

I visited my tailor on the way to work today. I'm getting a load of clothes copied before I head back to the frozen north. André is a great little guy, even if he never has the clothes ready when he says he will.

At lunch i'm still walking around with the plastic bag I had some of my clothes in...I took it out of my wardrobe where its probably been hanging for years. I go to the Happy Rwanda buffet for lunch, and I go there at least once a week cause it has Rwandan lunch buffet convience but with European twist. Its owned and run by an italian and its relatively expensive but goood. Anyway the waitresses there know me a bit. After I've finsihed my lunch and paid and am about to leave, one of the waitresses says to me "they will condemn you for that".

And while I'm processing this and trying to parse it, i see she is pointing (with her lips of course, not her finger) to the plastic bag. She's right, some idiot with a uniform or maybe even a member of the general public will give me hassle for an illegal plastic bag even though its probably been in my house since before the ban in 2005. I thank her and hide the plastic bag in my breifcasey bag....only in Rwanda...