Picture: Mamodupi Mohlala, CEO Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB)
The real estate industry must wait another week before the office of their regulating body, Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB), may (or may not) reopen on 1 July.
This means the regulator is still not open a full month after their industry reopened for business under level 3 regulations on 3 June. According to the EAAB’s CEO Mamodupi Mohlala the delay in reopening their office stems from all the COVID-19 health and safety requirements that has to be met to ensure the safety of their staff and of visitors to the office.
However, private businesses and other state entities, allowed to reopen during level 3, have all managed to put said requirements in place. What is not clear is why this process is taking so long with the regulating body? The CEO even closed the office a week before lockdown began on 27 March for ‘deep sanitation’ after an employee had contact with a family member who had had contact with someone who was COVID-19 positive. That was three months ago … since then the closest the office came to reopening was 8 notices from the CEO about the matter.
In fact, the EAAB could have reopened on 29 April already together with the deeds offices, councils etc – the regulator is breaking all records for staying closed.
Many business sectors were hard hit by the lockdown, including thousands of real estate agents who were unable to earn an income during this time and left financially exposed as they were unable to claim from any of the business relief packages made available by government. Real estate industry entities such as the National Property Professional Council (NPPC), Rebosa together with other industry bodies and real estate leaders urgently petitioned the government to allow deeds offices and the real estate sector to reopen sooner.
Mohlala appeared to be notably silent on this matter until ‘put on the spot’ (‘Where is Ms Mohlala?’, 7 May 2020). On 14 May she issued a statement that she supports the initiative to reopen the property sector and she published the ‘EAAB Covid-19 Support Measures’ to the industry. With the news that the real estate industry may reopen on 1 June, Property Professional asked Mohlala for her comments on how the regulator will assist agents during this phase – How will the EAAB assist estate agents in Level 3?. In her response she stated the EAAB was still working on the COVID-19 guidelines for estate agencies and on getting CPD online courses ready, they were also still awaiting a ministerial response about audit relief measures. She also outlined the steps planned and being implemented to get the offices ready to reopen on 23 June. The EAAB COVID-19 guidelines for industry was then only published on 14 June – two weeks after the real estate industry reopened.
Last week Property Professional reported on the continuing frustration from industry to obtain definitive answers from Mohlala on important matters such as the looming deadline for audits on 30 June, lack of CPD online training courses, why there are still outstanding FFC’s (when the CEO announced in December last year that they had issued all FFCs that were timeously requested and paid for). Mention was made that the EAAB’s vision for their entity is to be ‘world-class’ and the question was posed to industry whether they thought the regulator was living up to their vision.
Judging by most of the comments received (for the article and in response upon its’ publication) the industry reckons their regulator needs to step up quite a few notches on service delivery to even approach ‘world-class’.
World class service is generally defined as vastly exceeding customers’ expectations and building brand loyalty as a result. To do basics is entry level, not world-class. The FFC’s should have been issued last year. The lack of CPD content was criticised since inception, not just now. A pressing matter remains the request from industry not to be penalised for the inevitable late submission of audit reports because of the lockdown which the EAAB had the authority to do months ago (nobody asked for the audit date to be extended). The industry still waits with bated breath.
In response to said article the below response was received yesterday from Mohlala noting the EAAB’s “concern” that the latest article in Property Professional “portrays the EAAB as a non-functioning entity and is published without seeking comment from the subject of its critical reporting”. She responds to most matters raised in the article with more elaborate explanations on the delays in getting them addressed.
The notable exception is the terminating of the Professional Indemnity Policy in June 2019 and why industry has not been advised about this. No mention of this.
Herewith the CEO Mamodupi Mohlala’s response in full:
The EAAB notes with concern the Property Professional article of June 18 headlined “Is SA’s real estate regulator world-class”.
The lengthy article portrays the EAAB as a non-functioning entity and is published without seeking comment from the subject of its critical reporting.
Had Property Professional sought comment from the EAAB, we would have provided them with factual responses on the issues raised and assisted the author to produce a balanced report. Be that as it may, the regulator is a public entity accountable to the Executive Authority and the thousands of stakeholders it serves and would wish to respond to the article as follow.
The national Covid-19 lockdown has thrown the country into a tailspin and has resulted in devastating economic consequences for all sectors in the country. While most businesses closed post the March 26 lockdown during alert level 5, the EAAB ensured that staff responsible for essential services where equipped to work remotely and continue with service delivery. Stakeholders and professional bodies, including those mentioned in the article, were kept abreast with information regarding continued services, transformation initiatives currently being offered, tender notices and other Covid-19 related matters. The EAAB even hosted virtual meetings with some captains of industry to discuss issues critical to the industry.
Sorting the facts from the untruths.
Fidelity Fund Certificates (FFC)
The EAAB continuously strives to issue FFC timeously to estate agents who are legally compliant and have paid within the prescribed period.
A team dedicated to dealing with FFC related matters have since the beginning of lockdown until Friday 19 June issued 4 548 FFCs (See breakdown below). In some cases delays in issuing FFCs are as a result of but not limited to, incorrect and incomplete documentation submitted, incorrect payments, marriage certificates not submitted while ID is in the maiden surname and incorrect reference used for payments.
Earlier this year the EAAB held several engagements with stakeholders and one of the presentations made during these engagements was on education and training and how the current CPD courses offered was out-dated and would be remodelled.
|#||FFC Status||No. Issued|
Continuous Professional Development (CPD)
Several industry bodies made inputs regarding the CPD course outline and the EAAB took note of all the remarks. Subsequent to the engagements, the EAAB took a resolution to utilise the services of experts in various topics to rewrite the CPD modules. The EAAB is pleased to announce that the procurement process to appoint eternal CPD facilitators is being finalised and industry should be informed of the outcomes before the end of June. CPD courses will be done online through the e-learning platform and contact sessions will continue to be suspended to limit any potential transmission of the CoronaVirus.
As communicated to industry in May as part of the Covid-19 relief measures, the EAAB has delayed the payment of CPD fees and has engaged with the Department of Human Settlements or deferment of CPD as a form of relief. An outcome on this submission will be communicated to industry once received.
The EAAB is not a lawmaker. Its mandate is to regulate and enforce the laws of the country in accordance to the prescripts of the Estate Agents Affairs Act. The sector has requested that the deadline for submission of audit reports be moved to 30 September 2020. The regulator is mindful of the financial implication lockdown has had on estate agents, but unfortunately it does not have the powers to grant such an extension. As such, the board has submitted a proposal to Minister Lindiwe Sisulu on how to circumvent the issue to help ease the immediate financial demands on our stakeholders and help grow the country’s economy. We await a response on this matter.
Since the start of lockdown I have had 37 meetings – 24 internally and 13 externally. Some of the deliverables achieved in the past few months include:
- Implementation of PDI resolution that will benefit more than 1 000 previously disadvantaged agent blocked to non-payment of mandatory fees;
- Advertised R7-million SMME grant to help diversify the industry and assist small business to grow and develop.
- Placement of almost 200 interns with host employers during the fourth quarter of the financial year;
- No less than nine stakeholder workshops since February to discuss the PPA, transformation initiatives and black women in the industry.
Education and Training
- Successful sitting of Professional Designation Exams in March, with results available on MyEAAB portal and certificates being sent to successful candidates;
- Procurement of external experts in various topics to rewrite and modernize the CPD modules in final stage;
- Identified and drafted two policies to assist non-compliant estate agents and the re-entry of estate agents. Practice Notes has been widely communicated and implemented through Registrations Department.
- Implementation of Performance Management System at an advanced stage. Virtual training session held during lockdown with all EAAB staff;
- Developed Covid-19 workplace policy;
- Developed Covid-19 guidelines for estate agents;
- Recruitment of additional capacity to deal with Fidelity Fund Certificates and implementation of PDI resolution.
- Call centre re-opened in May 2020;
- High rate of complaints and enquiries resolved in first quarter or the current financial year – 10 292 queries received, 9 338 resolved.
- All essential staff equipped to operate remotely during lockdown and continue with service delivery;
Section 27 and claims department
- A total of 16 claims to the value of R3 233 126 finalised and paid out in the past six months
- Over 1500 S27 queries were processed and responded to in the fourth quarter;
- 220 agents restored to full compliance.
- Finalised annual financial statements for year end 31 March 2020;
- Completed and submitted all compliance reports including procurement to DHS and National Treasury;
- Liaised with AGSA on the audit process;
- Liaised with DHS regarding Covid-19 relief measures.
- Conducted numerous print and broadcast interviews in the last year highlighting the work of the EAAB, including in the Business Times section of the Sunday Times, Business Day, City Press and Sowetan;
- Seven radio and television interviews conducted during lockdown including with eNCA, Nezwroom Afrika, SABC television, SABC radio and Power FM;
- Dozens of media releases and news bulletins to stakeholders.
If this is not service delivery, then someone has to rewrite the manual to explain what is meant by service delivery!
In conclusion, yes, our vision is to be a “sound and trusted world-class regulator”, one that works in harmony with its stakeholders to transform, regulate and protect the industry.
Like any organisation we might be experiencing challenges, but we are driven and approach each challenge as an opportunity to grow and develop the regulator as we ready ourselves to become the Property Practitioners Regulatory Authority.
Our vision remains…”to be a sound and trusted world class regulator that is responsive to and surpassed its stakeholders’ expectations”.