Govt, developer defend eNatis

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 23 Apr 2007

The transport department's electronic National Traffic Information System (eNatis) is up and running normally, authorities said this morning - in the face of public scepticism.

"We've already had 40 000 successful transactions this morning," Tasima CEO Johan Vorster said at 8.41am this morning, "and right now we've got 1 780 users on the system." Vorster, whose company developed the system, is project manager for eNatis.

Johannesburg Metro Police spokesman chief superintendent Wayne Minnaar adds the system is online at the country's largest vehicle testing and registration centre, Langlaagte.

However, irate motorists are not so sure. "I have to renew my driver's licence but I don't want to go waste my time again," says one IT professional. "I was told the system would be up and running by Friday, 13 February, and when I went, it wasn't."

Retail Motor Industry Organisation CE Jeff Osborne told City Press the system was in "a state of chaos" last week.

"The failure to register new and pre-owned vehicles has affected everybody's cash flow. We have lost a billion rands and thousands of deals. The system is worse than the old one," he says in yesterday's paper. City Press adds: "The registration of new and pre-owned cars, and the renewal of car and driver's licences, have been temporarily halted, creating huge backlogs in the process."

A transport department spokesman has rubbished the allegation. "The claim that the industry has lost billions is nonsense," says Ntau Letebele.

City Press adds there are fears the eNatis crisis could have devastating effects on the economy: Motor manufacturers cannot ship units to dealers because they are forced to keep cars already sold in their showrooms. Dealerships can't release the cars to buyers because they first need the banks to pay them. They are not receiving the payments because banks require the dealerships to register the cars.

The Democratic Alliance yesterday called on transport minister Jeff Radebe to "desist from self-gratification and publicly acknowledge that [the system] has problems".

Spokesman Stuart Farrow said the new system was intended to improve client services.

"Unfortunately, this is not what is happening. This creates an impression the system was not thoroughly tested before going 'live'. While the minister gave eNatis 'the all clear' on Tuesday [last week], reports continue to reveal the system is not fully operational."

Farrow adds the original tender was for R311 million and eventually mushroomed to R386 million. "More importantly, the contract expires at the end of May this year. If the current problems are not immediately resolved, it is highly probable that we will be left with a white elephant, or the taxpayer will have to cough up more money if the contract is renewed."

He says the public needs to be properly informed about the functioning of the new system "in order to avoid inconvenience and a waste of their time".

Vorster says eNatis was "redeveloped from scratch" to replace a "very outdated" Natis architecture.

"However, the eNatis is based on the functionality available on the Natis, ie the same business rules apply as before... The objective was to redevelop the eNatis on the new architecture, stabilise the system after the changeover and then introduce the many systems enhancements required by [users]." More than 200 enhancements are under review, he notes.

Vorster explains eNatis is based on "free and open source software" and the "open source footprint of the project is constantly increased". Familiar software includes Java and RedHat Enterprise Linux as the operating system for application servers in the data centre and disaster recovery centre, as well as in the fault-logging system, and JasperReports as report-generating technology.

Related stories:
Technical hiccups hit eNatis
Govt upgrades Natis