Navigating a Maze of Red Tape

Jul 29 , 2023
By Kidist Yidnekachew

I dread customer service at public offices.

When I last visited a government institution, I was requested to provide a receipt which I decided to save in case I needed it later after taking a photo. However, the receipt was partially intact, which caused trouble.

I presented the receipt to the coordinator, but she was taken aback and refused to sign it. She explained that it was torn and there was no space for her to sign, instructing me to bring a new one.

I had to travel to the nearest bank to request a new receipt. However, I learned that I could only obtain one from the branch where I initially received it, which was further away.

In the meantime, I was experiencing back pain that made it difficult to move around. I had planned to go to the hospital, but I did not disclose this to the lady, assuming she would not understand.

I had to find another way to be done with it. So I went to a shop and colour-printed a copy from my phone and went back to the desk. The lady said that I seemed careless and should keep my receipts safe next time while I nodded in agreement.

She wrote something on the back of the receipt and directed me to the finance department. But when I got there, they sent me back to her. Eventually, she took my number and promised to call me when the issue was resolved.

I have not heard from her yet.

Looking back, I realise that tearing the paper was not the smartest decision. However, I believe that the person in charge could have easily checked with the finance team through any digital communication medium to see if my issue had been resolved before sending me on a wild goose chase.

Unfortunately, it is not the first time I have encountered this type of back-and-forth. It is unfair for customers to have to navigate multiple floors and departments to receive a single service.

Several customers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the services they receive at public offices, stating that they often take longer than necessary.

A close friend of mine was a victim of this unfair ordeal. When obtaining an identification card, customers had to wait in line as early as 5AM, before they could fill out paperwork and schedule appointments to pick up their IDs once they were ready.

Only a small group of up to 15 people are served until midday and those who arrive later are asked to return another day. While this may not be the case for all, it has become normalised that receiving good service is almost a surprise.

Despite the fact that Ethiopia is transitioning towards a cashless society and making online fuel purchases, departments continue to face challenges in effective communication.

Irrespective of the advancements in technology, customer services at public offices leave many dissatisfied. The issue needs to be addressed through integration, communication training and the appointment of capable people.

The lengthy process for relatively easier services such as ID renewals makes people dread going to the offices. The hustle discourages individuals from starting their own businesses or loathing the process as I did.

PUBLISHED ON Jul 29,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1213]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (

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