eNatis claims success

Audra Mahlong
By Audra Mahlong, senior journalist
Johannesburg, 11 May 2009

Officials have hailed the success of the electronic National Traffic Information System (eNatis) on its second anniversary, but driving schools say the system is inefficient and crippled by corruption.

“In its first 24 months of operation, this world-class system has proved to be more than equal to the formidable task of handling the hundreds of millions of transactions performed at service centres across the country, and to say that it has exceeded expectations is an understatement,” say officials.

Some driving school instructors, however, state the system is failing. Instructors claim it is “virtually impossible” to book drivers' appointments and the technology systems are susceptible to human intervention.

“One person waits for a date from two to up to seven months at a time. So, if we are testing five or six people at a time, only one or two will get dates. We can't do things the right way anymore,” says one driving school owner.

While eNatis admits instances of fraud continue to occur, it says there have been a “large number of successful prosecutions” following audits conducted by law enforcement agencies.

Despite instances earlier this year, when several centres reported extended downtime, eNatis says this has been virtually non-existent. Centres in the Lenasia, Sandton and Johannesburg areas reported downtime in one or more of their divisions.

Essential maintenance is performed outside of office hours to ensure that service centres experience no negative impact. In cases where service centres report connectivity issues, the cause is almost invariably telecommunication line malfunctions rather than non-availability of the system, says eNatis.

Money wasted

In 2007, the Gauteng Department of Public Transport, Roads and Works introduced a R23 million automated testing system. The IT-based system marked an attempt by the department to alleviate backlogs and root out corruption. The new system, integrating SMS, telephone, Internet and walk-in bookings, has been implemented in five licensing stations: Langlaagte, Akasia, Centurion, Rayton and Watloo centres.

The Department of Transport stated that learner's licence bookings would be centralised and all call centres and testing stations would be networked to allow for electronic communication. The system is touted to effectively end the booking chaos that has plagued Gauteng's testing stations.

Despite complaints over a two-year period that the system was ineffective and dysfunctional - the transport department maintains the centralisation of the learner booking system is working very well and continues to eliminate the illegal sale of booking slots by corrupt officials.

Good performance?

eNatis says it has ensured it could handle large volumes of requests and process all queries. According to eNatis, from May 2007 to the end of April 2009, close on 315 million transactions were performed on the system, and each successive month produced one or more new transaction volume record in a variety of categories.

Monthly transaction volumes now regularly nudge the 16 million mark, says eNatis.

eNatis adds that the licence appointment booking system used countrywide allows for the “better utilisation of capacity at testing centres and has proved to be most effective in curbing fraud”. The contravention register - which lies at the heart of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences system - has increased its use of system-to-system transactions.

This will free up resources at services centres and result in improved service levels,” says eNatis.

But a driving school instructor in Krugersdorp states that service will not improve until systems get better.

“You phone the call centre and they say they have no dates. You enquire at the licensing department and they say they also have no dates. Call centres refer you to licensing departments and vice versa. There's no accountability with this system and it's becoming difficult for us to do training because of the time we have to wait for a test date.”

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