Mr Le Roux – I miss you too
The Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) CEO Mamodupi Mohlala denies allegations that she as CEO of the regulator has been ‘absent’ during the coronavirus crisis. “The EAAB has not only been hard at work but has been very responsive and proactive on the COVID-19 pandemic to the extent that management is empowered to respond,” she writes this week in response to Jan le Roux, CE of Rebosa.
Dear Mr Le Roux, I acknowledge receipt of your open letter with the warmth and affection that it was written with. I firstly wish to state that the feeling is mutual, I miss you too. However, most important, I miss the life I had before COVID-19 came along. I, however, hope you appreciate that I MAMODUPI MOHLALA no matter how deluded I may be with my illusions of grandeur am neither the author of Covid-19 nor the regulations that have been promulgated by the State in response thereto. I, like everyone else, have been thrust into the free fall of this modern day plague called the coronavirus or the COVID-19 pandemic. No one has been spared. We are coping the best way we can, to the best of our professional capability.
Mr. Le Roux, now that the nice and polite exchanges are out of the way let us now deal with the facts.
First and foremost Mr Le Roux, all correspondence that was forwarded to the EAAB under the auspices of Rebosa was all responded to by me. I believe that at times you have gone so far as to intimate that you are impressed at the speed with which we have responded to your correspondence. Should you require copies of the correspondence where you make such an assertion, I am more than willing to make it available.
Secondly, the letters that you addressed to the EAAB under the auspices of the newly-formed entity, namely the NPPC, were addressed to the Chairperson of the Board and not to me as the CEO. It would therefore have been very rude of me to impose a response where correspondence is not addressed to me, especially when all protocol has been observed. Further, I believe in response thereto the Chairperson of the Board did indeed liaise with your good self and this is acknowledged in a letter by yourself addressed to the Chair. I am also informed that the Chair has since responded to the letter sent by the NPPC.
Thirdly, and most importantly, you argue that all your pleas and those of the industry have fallen on deaf ears. I do not believe that this is factually correct. The EAAB has not only been hard at work but has been very responsive and proactive on the COVID-19 pandemic to the extent that management is empowered to respond. Specifically I invite you Mr Le Roux to have a look at our website that has had up-to-date reports on the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the EAAB and its employees on the one hand and how we intended to deal with industry at large on the other. The notices referred to were placed on the EAAB website days before the national lockdown. I therefore once again, as I have before, urge you to be true to the facts and the efficiencies that the EAAB and its staff has exhibited under these very trying times.
INDUSTRY CATEGORISATION – ELEVATION FROM LEVEL 2 TO LEVEL 4
I wish to emphasize that as Mamodupi Mohlala, in my personal capacity, I support in the strongest of terms the drive and appeal to have the real estate sector classification moved from a Level 2 to a Level 4 categorization. However, such support must be understood in the context that human life and safety supersede all else and must be guarded without apology or compromise. Further, as stated, we as management do not work in isolation we work under the supervision of a Board as the accounting authority. This submission is made subject to the Board echoing the same sentiment. Most importantly, I wish to emphasis that the final decision is that of the Minister of Human Settlements and her colleagues working under the auspices of a ministerial committee tasked with the responsibility to respond to COVID-19 as chaired by his Excellency the President Cyril Ramaphosa.
I understand your frustrations and anxious audience whose anxiety and bottomline continues to thin every day, every hour, every minute. However, I think it is most unfair to then lay your frustrations at my doorstep as the CEO of EAAB when I am as powerless as you yourself are in this matter. Please Mr Le Roux, with all due respect, do not target the weakest link in the value chain because this could be perceived as an attempt at scoring points or even playing to the gallery. We are all on the same team and need to work together to achieve a common purpose not against each other.
REGULATION COMMENT PROCESS
There was an industry request for an extension of the public comment period in relation to regulations proposed by the Department of Human Settlements with respect to the implementation of the Property Practitioners Act. When called upon, the EAAB through myself (directly) not only promptly interacted with the DHS for an extension, but also promptly communicated the extension once granted.
Now Mr Le Roux does this amount to one missing in action? I think the facts point to the contrary to anyone looking on, whether objectively or not.
FIDELITY FUND CERTIFICATES AND INDUSTRY QUERIES
We have at all times, even under lockdown, continued to deliver in terms of our mandate. We have remotely continued to work. We have not only continued to issue Fidelity Fund Certificates (FFCs), but we have to the best of our ability continued to respond to queries by industry. We continue to painstakingly use technology for all our interactions, alien and difficult as it maybe. You, Mr Le Roux, may not be aware that we have a dedicated team of professionals who work tirelessly in the background that is marshaled, stewarded and lead by yours truly. We have again, I repeat, continued to issue FFCs and as recent as last week we provided a report on all your FFC queries to the two ladies at Rebosa. Further, even the Board members that represent IEASA submitted queries and those were addressed. We have also continued to field queries and even went so far as to have zoom conference calls with industry groups such as the NPF team and the PPI teams.
The Board of EAAB can give testimony that we as management have presented them with daily reports prepared by the managers and executives on the daily activities that are being undertaken by the staff of EAAB. When the lockdown was extended and we realized that the real estate sector does not fall under Level 4 we made a determination that we will from now on work on hundred per cent capacity and not be restricted only to the essential aspect of the business as was the case under Level 5 of the lockdown. This again was communicated to the industry by putting notices on our website and sending out bulk emails to our members.
Mr Le Roux, if this is perceived as silence or missing in action, I think you really need to reconsider your perception. We have been hard at work within the confines of the COVID-19 regulations of maintaining a safe social distance and with the required protective masks and gloves. WE HAVE MADE SURE THAT WE KEEP OUR GLOVES ON AND HAVE NOT TAKEN THEM OFF, which is a lot less than I can say for many others. But we understand these are trying times for all of us.
CONTINOUS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT (CPD)
As I stated previously, the EAAB has never sat back and just watched the industry, we continue to serve during these difficult economic times. We have done all in our power to bring to bear the limited relief that is within our power to address. Please be mindful that the control of the economy does not lie with the EAAB, but with the ministers in cabinet, who are in charge of the economic cluster and includes our Honorable Minister Sisulu. We can, however, urge you Mr Le Roux to be true to the facts because long prior to your intervention herein we have already given the industry the following concessions:
- Deferment and waiver of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) fees
The EAAB, as far back as March 2020, ascended to the industry request in terms of which industry initially requested a deferment with respect to the date of payment of the CPD fees. This was put on our website as far back as 16 March 2020. If this is not a direct response from the EAAB to a request from the industry Mr Le Roux, I do not know what it is you consider to be a response.
In further correspondence the industry proposed that all CPD fees for 2020 be waived on the basis that agents will not earn an income for most of the 2020 financial year. The Board has forwarded a recommendation for the Honourable Minister’s consideration that will strike a balance between addressing the industry request and continued sustainability of the entity.
At this point I wish to emphasize that CPD is one of the biggest income streams of the EAAB, but, however, because we realise the dire economic and financial situation that the real estate sector finds itself in, the Board and management of the EAAB has felt it prudent to initially delay the payment but more recently has made a decision to further engage with the Minister on the industry request for deferment of CPD in order to give the much needed relief to the industry. We realize that we regulate an industry of which we do not do so in isolation but need to be responsive to the needs of the sector.
Further, to show that we are always responsive to the needs of the sector, we have resolved that even under these trying circumstances the EAAB will make sure that we not only continue to deliver in terms of CPD but also the PDE 4 and 5 remotely. We will continue to empower our sector with all the knowledge and tools of the trade that are required.
Last but not least, the eight points we make is that the other requests that the industry presented to the Chair of the Board have been addressed at a meeting held by a sub-committee of the Board on 08 May 2020 and the resolution with respect thereto are as follows:
- Concession in respect of late audit report submissions
The sector requested that the deadline for submission of audit reports be moved to 30 September 2020. The Board however does not have the powers to grant such a request as it is prescribed in the Estate Agents Affairs Act. However, we will not completely fail to attend to the request. The Board has submitted a proposal to the Executive Authority, which if granted will enable us to make an announcement to the industry.
Payment holiday for exam fees, fines and penalties
The sector requested the EAAB to announce a payment holiday until 28 February 2021 for all agents who are in arrears with payments, fines and/or penalties and all exam fees.
With respect to historical debt, we will not consider a payment holiday, however, we would consider a payment holiday on penalties on FFC renewals. However, given that FFC renewals are only due on 31st October 2020 and penalties only kick-in on 1st November, the Board will make a further determination on this issue at later dates.
- Professional Indemnity Insurance
The sector requested that the Professional Indemnity Insurance be used to cover their operations during the lockdown. The Board noted that the Professional Indemnity Insurance was specifically set up to indemnify the public against negligent practices of estate agents and hence this insurance cannot be used for operational costs of estate agents.
We are mindful that the Covid-19 pandemic has created great uncertainty and financial pressure and as such we will have continued engagements with our stakeholders.
The coronavirus will be with us for some time. I therefore extend a gloved hand of comeradery and solidarity that we jointly, with the industry, navigate these uncertain waters and conserve our energy for a joint effort to improve the sector.
Let us build rather than pull apart and point fingers.
MY DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN. FEEL FREE TO PHONE IF NEEDS BE.
Issued by the EAAB CEO Mamodupi Mohlala