Saturday, February 6, 2016

Just need a stupid bank account....

Here is a peek at my day yesterday. You would think by now I'd be more used to the ridiculousness of bureaucracy here but it still gets under my skin really quickly.  I just need to open two bank accounts. Now, I know I'm a foreigner but I went with all sorts of documents that show that I work here, pay rent and bills regularly, that I have the permits to be here, etc... I went to the bank Tuesday afternoon, got in line and waited to see the manager. 35 minutes later I'm informed that, actually, the person I need to see for a foreign currency account wasn't there and that he will surely be back Wednesday. I went back Thursday and waited a few minutes but quickly discovered there were 16 people (not exaggerating) in line ahead of me and in the 10 minutes I waited the line only got longer, not shorter. So I left. 8:30 sharp (the time they are supposed to open) Friday morning found me waiting outside the bank. Lets just say they didn't really open on time. But I was the first one in line to see the manager. I explained that I would like to open two accounts, a dollar account and a shilling account. He said fine, asked to see some ID. I gave him my CLIDE badge and we made small talk about the consultancy. He knew several of my co-workers so we talked about a recent wedding and other things. Then he asked to see another piece of ID. I gave him my MI drivers license. He immediately found a problem. My license reads Jennifer Jane Kragt and the CLIDE one reads Jennifer Kragt. He didn't like that one "had another name". I explained how middle names in the States work and how no one calls me Jane so it isn't on the CLIDE card. He asked to see another form of ID. I showed him my birth certificate but that one doesn't have a picture so he didn't like it.  He really wanted another Ugandan issued ID but I don't have anything else. We settled on my passport but he really wasn't happy. He asked to see my papers that I used to get a work permit (in lieu of a letter of introduction from CLIDE) and at first he was fine but then he decided that because he had put Jennifer Jane on all of his papers my letters had to have that name too. So I have to go get a new letter of introduction from my boss that says that I work for CLIDE (which you would think both my ID card and work permit make pretty clear) and make sure it says Jane on it somewhere. He explained to me that I also need to get a letter of permission (?!?!) from the Local Council Chairman (LC1) and bring that with me to the bank when I get back. As it was nearly 11 am by this time (it had taken him forever to find the right papers, get the instructions from someone above him and do whatever else he was doing while I was sitting waiting at his desk. I should mention here the one of the things which made it take longer was that on the first paper he gave me to sign I signed Jennifer Jane Kragt. The same on the second. When he got to the third and fourth signatures I just scribbled J. Kragt. My mistake. He had to fill those two out again and have me sign CORRECTLY.  Also, because he left me sitting so long, (his mistake!), I had a chance to read a few of the things I was signing. I discovered that the account I was opening was going to cost 10,000 UGX per month. I challenged him in this and he insisted it wouldn't be nearly that much. I countered with maybe it shouldn't say it on the paperwork if it wasn't true. I had also read that I could only open the shillings account with less than 600,000 UGX of and no minimum balance had to be maintained. Both of which contradicted what I had been told earlier. Mr. Manager obviously didn't know what was on the papers and told me to not worry about it.) I just packed it up and headed out. I met with Dr. Moses and asked for the letter by Monday which he said was not problem. Then I called my landlord to see if he would "introduce" me to the LC1 so I could get a letter from him. My landlord is out of town on business and it was unclear when he was getting back so I decided that even though it isn't really cultural I was just going to find him myself. So some of my neighbors gave me directions and I finally found him in a local bar already drunk. (Still before noon.)
He wrote me an almost completely illegible letter which I made sure contained the name Jennifer Jane. This took some cajoling and a hefty fee. But he was willing to give me a receipt (of which I had to provide and fill out but he signed) so I guess I got what I needed. If it only takes me an hour on Monday (which I doubt, but am trying to be hopeful) I'll already have six hours invested in this project. All of this for the bank to give me the privileged of them keeping my money for me. It isn't even like I'm doing it for any interest because Ugandan banks don't do anything strange like that.
2/9/16- Well, went back today with all the necessary letters (after waiting another hour for CLIDE to write theirs) and signed more papers and waited some more and had more asinine conversations with the accounts guy and after being there practically all morning (3 hours, I think) I was finally told I could go. I asked if I could have copies of any of the papers I had signed or at least some form on proof that I have accounts there and possibly the account numbers or anything, They told me it would take "some more time" before I could have anything like that. So, I left empty handed. But possibly I am about to have a bank account?
2/10/16- Stopped by in the morning today and asked for the papers about my account. Told it was not ready so I just left without waiting. After 6pm I got a call from the bank that now they were closed but they had to have a copy of my passport to process the accounts, so even though I took my passport with me both of the first two times I'll be going back again with it tomorrow.

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