Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

When e-government goes bad

A story from one of my favourite internet sources. Special prize to anyone who can guess the country without googling.
A friend who wanted to register his company for VAT, decided to try doing this through the internet. After a Google search he was directed to the government portal and to his surprise found the VAT registration form 101; he was impressed that there was even an option to add the relevant attachments to the form.

He filled out the form, but when he tried to submit it the website gave him the message that the operation could not be completed. He pressed the ‘Submit’ command a few more times but every time he got the message that the submission could not be completed. 

To establish what the problem was, he called the VAT service and informed an employee what had happened and asked whether the system was down or there was something else he should have done. He would not have been treated with more rudeness if he had asked to sleep with the official’s wife. 

The irritating member of the public was condescendingly told there was no such web-service, he did not know what he was talking about and that if he wanted to submit Form 101, he had to go to the VAT service in person and fill it in by hand. The rude official made one concession to our friend – he put him through to his superior.

Polite and helpful, in stark contrast to his subordinate, the manager expressed genuine surprise to hear about the existence of electronic forms. Our friend gave him the web-address so he could check out for himself and after a couple of minutes the startled manager apologised for the inconvenience caused. 

He was in charge of the registration service, he said, but did not know the VAT forms were available in electronic format on the internet, as nobody had informed him. Probably because it will take another three years before the government’s programmers arrange for the form to be submitted electronically.  

Our friend still had to go to the VAT office, fill in the form by hand, queue at two desks, first for someone to stamp the form and then for someone to enter it into the system.
Translation note: VAT is a sales tax charged in the European Union and some other countries.
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