Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Calling the government - EPA, FWO, MYKI

Calling government departments was my main task for the day. Or you could say I was living in the land of acronyms.  I called the Fair Work Ombudsman in relation to some work I'm doing for a client.  I called the Environment Protection Authority to report a terrible smell in the neighbourhood and I made various calls as part of my ongoing quest to bring to light and have fixed the wasteful and complex processes which sit behind the Myki ticketing system.

It is quite interesting to reflect on the different approaches and qualities of  the various departments.  I discovered that it takes quite a bit of persistence to move from being "handled" within a process to finding someone with whom to have a real conversation.

It was my first time calling the EPA.  The sound of the call centre in the background was so loud I had to repeat everything I said at least twice.  I've never logged a smell before and had to answer quite comprehensive questions about the quality and nature of the smell.  I'm not sure how successful I was.  It was sort of sulphury and had a chemical edge, kind of like a bad chemical sewerage smell!  Then they wanted to know which way the wind was blowing.  I almost wet my finger and stuck it in the air, but decided that was overkill.  I think I decided it was south-west, but I don't really know.

Then I was asked to say where the smell was coming from.  I imagine that if I knew, I would just call and say the local pet food factory is stinking up the neighbourhood again!

Imagine having that job.  Working in a call centre where your job is to log complaints about smells. She was very nice, but that would drive me crazy.

Anyway, I have another reference number to add to my collection of reference numbers from government departments.  Maybe I should turn them into art one day.  How depressing that would be.

My calls about Myki started by calling the actual government.  I posted about the two line email I received from a staffer of one of my state government representatives (Andrew Elsbury).  I followed up the response with a further email.  When that elicited no response I called the office and was advised that it would be "looked into".  Ah, the sure statement that nothing will happen.  Mirrors are what you look into! Then I received an actual letter (sent to the wrong address, but oh well) dated 6 February.

The letter thanks me for my email and includes the predictable blame shifting sentence: "Myki was a system inherited from the previous government which had significant problems."  I can't tell from this whether Mr Elsbury is claiming knowledge of the ticketing system or the previous government - which one is he saying had significant problems.

I am then assured that "Since coming to Government the Coalition has sought to improve this system to deliver a better public transport system for Victorians."  Well they would say that wouldn't they.  We do know that the old Metcard system is to be phased out by the end of the year.  One would hope that the ongoing back office problems with Myki need to be sorted out quickly. Seeking to improve and actually improving are not necessarily the same thing.

Then there's the interesting bit: "After looking into your matter (sounds like a weird science project) and speaking with the Transport Ticketing Authority they have informed me that they will continue to use bank cheques for refund purposes." So this is what I already knew from the two line email I received from the staffer.  What has not been addressed is when and why this changed.

I have previously written about the advice I received through the Transport Ticketing Authority when I made a complaint to the Public Transport Ombudsman.  They advised that the process of issuing bank cheques to return money stored on the "smart" Myki cards would be replaced in the "near future".  So I'd like to know what has changed and what has informed this decision.

It's really quite hard to find out.  When you ring your local member, you get the staffer and unless they happen to know about the issue you're raising, they will generally know less than the person they work for.  Their main focus is to deflect and divert your attentions in the hope that you will give up and go away.  I'm sure my name must be on a list somewhere by now.  They should consult that list and realise that I will persist.

The final sentence of the letter is very revealing: "While the delay you faced for such a small amount is understandably frustrating I believe that this method has been used as it is suitable for the majority of situations."  Apart from largely missing the point of my complaint, I love the naive faith that the system would only have been designed with the best in mind.  I suppose it would be okay for the government to be the last people using cheques. Didn't they get the memo about the dawn of the digital age?

I've called the Transport Ticketing Authority to follow up why the plan to change to a sensible refund process that's compatible with "smart" card technology has been abandoned.  I'm waiting for a call back.  So I called Myki again today to see what else I could find out.

I learnt that people complain about this issue regularly.  We all need to do this if anything is going to change.

I learnt that there are people who believe that there is money actually in the card.  They believe that exchanging cards results in a need to get the money out of the card and return it to the person who put the money on there.  This must be why money can be put on the replacement Myki when the reason for changing cards is that the old one was lost, stolen or defective.  It says so on the form.  Although, it still takes 10 days for this to happen.  I was told today that the reason it takes so long is that the money has to be removed from the old card.  The reason it can be done at all in this situation is that the card is being "replaced".  In the situation of a new card being issued because of a change in concession status, the card is being "refunded".  This is an enormous difference.  Apparently.

I feel like taking my card to the Myki Discovery Centre and cracking it open so that it can be seen, once and for all, that the money is not physically stored in the card.

So I'll add another reference number to my collection - this time in the special section indexed as "M" for Myki.  And contact the other members of parliament whom I have already contacted about this issue.  It will be interesting to hear what the Minister for Transport has told them.

In the meantime, I believe that we all need to make our voices heard when we come across wasteful and stupid government processes.  You can do a lot by email if you don't want to go through the call centre experience.  Soon there won't be the back up of Metcard as a second ticketing system.  These problems need to be fixed now!

I'd love to know your experiences with Myki - especially the "back office" processes.  Have you complained?  What were you told?

No comments:

Post a Comment