boxing_glovesThere seems to be quite a battle for the rates application business from the two big vendors at the Durban Metro. To get to the bottom of the saga and how it affects Conveyancers in the region, I decided to meet with the Metro. Louis Kruger, Roy Grandin and Deven Shukla were kind enough to grant me the meeting - thanks guys. So for those who don't know all the facts, here is the low down.....

Until recently Rates Applications were submitted electronically via the L@W EP ("electronic processor") messaging system - so your conveyancing system would post a secure "message" to the EP system and the EP would send a secure message (using your digital certificate) to the central L@W EP server (switch) - which would time stamp the message - and then forward it onto the Metro IRCAM EP server (IRCAM), also using the digital certificate. The IRCAM system then has various links to their internal Revenue Manager mainframe, which allows the Metro to process the applications - now known as "electronic applications".

Just to give you a little background, the electronic applications process is a lot faster than manual submissions. Deven Shukla mentioned that an electronic application will take up to 5 days to get to the "payment request" stage, whereas the manual application will take between 10 to 12 days. The aspects of electronic applications that make it that much faster are:
• Data is already captured - by the conveyancing paralegal
• Rates number is correct - fewer errors
• The payments in the Metro system are linked to the EA system and can be processed quickly
• The Metro gives priority to the electronic application as it helps their process and saves time.
The inclusion of the electronic payments in October last year was a very positive step for both the Metro and for the Conveyancers.

Recently Korbitec made a change through one of its software updates in the GhostConvey system which severed the route to the L@W EP system and directed the rates application to their own gateway - which then compiles a message into an email and attaches a Rates Application form and submits it to the Metro - who now treat this message as a manual application - simply because it is outside of their customised electronic system. These changes to the software would have been communicated to all GhostConvey customers.

Now, manual applications are not a priority for the Durban Metro since some 4 years back they explained that in order to speed up rates applications they would need to prioritise electronic applications because they were quicker and more accurate, whereas manual applications take far longer to process - in fact an extra 30 minutes per application. So now the manual applications are starting to slow the rates application process down and are causing delays.

At present the Metro processes between 3000 and 4000 applications per month, of which 600 were previously manual applications. Since the change they now receive some 2400 applications as manual applications. This means 30 minutes x 1800 = 900 extra hours (128 people-days) are needed in that department. So for a start, the manual applications are slower - for both Conveyancers and for the Metro. The more applications they get via manual applications, the slower they can process both manual and electronic applications - so delays are inevitable. Since there is a staff shortage in Deven's department a heavier workload will certainly not improve the situation.

It's also not just about processing speed. The price of the electronic application is R80.00 from the Metro and R73.10 from L@W for the processing of the instruction - which equates to R153.10. However, the manual application costs R181.00 from the Metro. So the manual application is not only slower, it is also more expensive. As a matter of interest, the Metro is in the process of increasing the fees and a 10% increase is on the table.

So the current state of affairs is that if you want your rates clearance applications to be processed swiftly - go electronic. If you wish to save money - go electronic.

I do hope that the Durban Metro/Korbitec/L@W will sort out this feud as it has affected the conveyancing process and it reflects badly on the Conveyancers when rates applications are backlogged. It also costs the attorney (read "the Consumer") more money. Currently the only electronic system linking into the IRCAM system is the L@W web-based application.

To end this sorry saga with a positive slant, it was good to hear from the Metro that they are working on a new Revenue Management System which will link all their databases (electricity, water, rates, valuations etc) via a GIS Property Key which will allow a single search for all the information and outstanding moneys due on a property and this will speed up the process even further.

Absolute final say here - as Conveyancers you are the Customer for these vendors. So it is up to you to get together and tell them to make their systems work as they did before, or better still, to improve on them.  But you should not have to go backwards while they battle it out!

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