Refund lost in limbo as email undelivered

For want of a nail a shoe was lost, as the old saying goes. Charles, 73, and Edie Rowe, 71, almost lost R10 670 because a clerk at either the City of Cape Town’s Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA) or revenue department was too lazy to check an email address when it obviously bounced back or phone to check why it wasn’t delivered.

But then it means you have to think out of the box, and sometimes that’s hard.

The Rowes, who live in Monte Vista, bought a nearby property as a legacy for their children about two years ago.

Although they didn’t know it, the building wasn’t quite legal. It didn’t have plans so they began renovating, putting in fire doors, sky lights, inflow fan, extractor fans, larger gutters and attending to maintenance which is still ongoing.

Although the house was a stand-alone, it was part of a township so the Rowes had to get planning permission and check if the neighbours had any objections.

“We submitted plans last year and were told we had to advertise our alterations to all and sundry as we were not a ‘stand-alone’ property, which we sent along with the Land Use Management Application forms, which cost R10 670 and paid by EFT. A Gregory Joubert emailed the good news that we had permission and we should withdraw the application. Which we did. A few days later Paulita Rhoda (TDA) sent us new forms and which had to be stamped by the bank and the City appointed conveyancers,” Mr Rowe said.

“But there was no sign of the refund, and a technical assistant, Ms Rhoda emailed us: ‘Since the process is now being done in the system I cannot give you answers. I have done my part and now it is out of my hands’. My wife and I have been into counter 2 at the municipal offices so often over the last few months that the women there greet us by name but seem loathe to tell us who to contact in the appropriate department. They have shown on their computer that a director had authorised a refund on November 23 2017. The lawyers informed us that they had received the registered deed in May this year but they could not help us get our money back.

“There are no outstanding matters and yet I am unable to get a refund. Can you help?”

Luthando Tyhalibongo, City of Cape Town media manager, told me that a representative from the revenue department has contacted Mr Rowe and “further engagement will follow in order to achieve a speedy resolution”.

It was speedy, alright. But what led to the delay? Mr Tyhalibongo didn’t say.

I like mysteries just as much as the next person but I also want to know who the villain is.

An administrative officer in the revenue department told the Rowes he was appointed by his line manager to deal with the issue.

In an email he wrote: “Thank you for the kind and pleasant manner in which my call was received by both you and Mrs Rowe.

“We received your refund application on November 22 2017 from the section you were in contact with.

“Our system confirms that the application was reviewed and found one important requirement missed out on (sic). On November 28 2017, Refunds asked you to acknowledge receipt of the refund application with guidance on what is required.

“Refunds require any digital extracts to be stamped by the bank. Your proof of payment, besides the printer trouble you had, is marked ‘reprint’ and was not stamped by the bank. The purpose of our email was to ask you to have the proof stamped, please.

“We are sorry that the email failed to reach.

“This is because your email address was incorrectly typed as @telkom instead of @telkomsa.

“Mr Rowe, we are passionate about service delivery and it is not good to hear stories like yours especially our senior citizens. As discussed telephonically, please use my email address to forward the stamped proof of payment so that we can expedite your refund. We are very sorry about the delay and the inconvenience this error caused,”

A few days later, on July 4, Mr Rowe confirmed that the deposit was showing in his bank account.

“We are very grateful for your assistance in resolving this issue. Again a case of ‘who you know’ and we will make a donation to Fallen Angels in appreciation,” he said.

Fallen Angels is a pet rescue organisation near Duynefontein.