Business as usual for Estate Agency Affairs Board

Nomonde Mapetla - business as usual

The board - the statutory consumer protection body of the real estate industry - strongly dismissed suggestions in the release that it was now something of a "lame duck", following the recent controversy that saw several members resign after admitting involvement in financial irregularities.

Nomonde Mapetla, the board's chief executive, said it was continuing not only to function, but to perform all the duties required of it by law.

She was responding to earlier reports that the EAAB was in "turmoil" following allegations of financial irregularities and the subsequent much publicised resignations.

Claims were also made that the EAAB board had last met in April, and questions were raised about the legality of its disciplinary hearing committees, which estate agents said were supposed to be appointed by the board
However, Mapetla denied these claims, saying the board had previously comprised 12 members and therefore seven members remained following the resignations.

The resignations had not affected the operations of the board because a quorum was six members. She stressed that the appointment of members to disciplinary hearing committees was "a management, not a board prerogative".

"The EAAB continues to receive between 30 to 40 written complaints from consumers every day. About 50 percent of these are either directed to the incorrect forum, or are simply invalid. This means the board deals with between 15-20 valid complaints from the public daily, investigating them and placing them before committees of enquiry.

"In Gauteng alone, between one and two disciplinary enquiries are held every week, at which seven to 10 individual matters are dealt with. To suggest that the board is not properly functional, or no longer has authority, is disingenuous, to say the least," Mapetla said.

She added the board continued to receive a large number of claims against the Estate Agents Fidelity Fund, which protects consumers against theft of trust money by estate agents. No agent can legally operate without a Fidelity Fund certificate.

"We also understand that there are concerns in the industry that renewal of Fidelity Fund certificates will not be concluded in time, but I wish to give a categorical assurance that these fears are unfounded. Indeed, such renewals have already been dispatched to all registered agents and, provided they pay their levies on time, agents will receive them by the end of November or, at worst, the middle of December," Mapetla said. She added no estate agent would be prejudiced as the result of the non-issue of a certificate.

She said the activities of certain sectional title managers continued to be a huge concern to the board, which was currently investigating possible fraud by three such managers involving more than R20-million

Regarding the continuation of the EAAB's management board, Mapetla said this was in the hands of the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mandisi Mpahlwa, and she did not wish to pre-empt or influence any decisions in this regard.

"They resigned to the minister. The minister will have the names. I'm also not sure when they resigned. Meetings were held following the completion of the audit, but I was excluded from these meetings, so I don't really know," she said.

Mapetla was unsure whether former EAAB members guilty of financial irregularities would face criminal charges. But she said this was one of the options available in terms of the Public Finance Management Act.
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