Paving the way for future public-private partnerships

March 9, 2012 5:21 pm 0 comments

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There is no doubt that public-private partnerships have an increasingly important role to play in South Africa, potentially bringing major benefits and efficiencies to all walks of South African society.

 In essence, it boils down to the old idiom “two heads are better than one”, implying that some problems may be solved more easily by two or more people working together than each person working alone.

On the surface, this may appear to be a simplistic notion, but after more careful analysis, it is not.

By working together in certain spheres of the economy, the public and private sectors can achieve more than they would be able to do separately.

An excellent example of a successful public-private partnership is the Electronic National Traffic Information System, more commonly known as eNaTIS, which was developed by Tasima (Pty) Ltd, for the National Department of Transport.

Since it went live in 2007, eNaTIS has become a very successful tool for monitoring the licensing of around nine million vehicles and the ownership registration of six to seven million drivers.

Today, eNaTIS, which was developed and implemented by Tasima on a turnkey basis, boasts 24/7, 365 days a year, 99% systems availability in terms of a service level agreement with the National Department of Transport. It is constantly accessible to licensing and traffic authorities, the South African Police Service, banks and insurance companies.

Importantly, eNaTIS is self-funding. It is paid for through vehicle transaction fees and does not in any way drain the national fiscus.

In this case, the private sector has developed a solution that enables the public sector to carry out its responsibilities of registering and licensing both vehicles and drivers more effectively. It is definitely a win-win situation.

For any public-private partnership to work, there have to be very clear deliverables, obligations and responsibilities on both sides of the partnership. There also have to be clear financial benefits for the public sector, which in essence is the tax payer.

There also has to be an incredibly sound framework as public-private partnerships invariably entail large databases and can affect the lives of millions of individuals throughout the country.

Also important is that any technology being used as the systems backbone must be scalable at reasonable costs with a strong focus on ensuring that security features are as strong and as reliable as possible.

In the IT and technology space, there must be several other opportunities where the public and private sectors can look at areas where there is a need for a partnership to meet a challenge and satisfy a need. It goes without saying that the public sector does not have the capability within its ranks to develop and deliver solutions that are needed across the economy – this applies globally, not just in South Africa.

Essentially, eNaTIS is a mini Home Affairs, representing a national database of vehicles and their drivers/owners. It also provides a platform for other functionality to be added – such as the Administered Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) which has already been developed, but just needs to be officially gazetted before it can be implemented throughout the country.

Reflecting on the importance of eNaTIS to the country as a whole, Tasima’s head office is treated as a Key National Point with extra levels of security and protection. The level of trust between public and private sector partners must be of the highest order for the relationship to be of benefit to all the stakeholders, particularly the citizens of the country.

Scalability is also of major importance when the public and private sectors go into partnership. If the system works, it needs to be able to have further layers added to it in the future, improving return on capital invested and widening functionality. This deepens the extent of the public-private relationship and makes it more valuable and long-lasting.

In its first few years, eNaTIS’ emphasis has been on licensing and registration, but driver behaviour (through Aarto) will soon become another layer and there is a possibility that vehicle roadworthiness functionality could be added to the system in the future.

Following the system’s successful introduction and adoption in South Africa, there are now plans to roll out eNaTIS into other SADC countries, subject to inter-governmental negotiations, to modernise the management of vehicle and driver registration and licensing details eNaTIS is best positioned to sharply reduce cross-border theft of vehicles in the SADC region and also provide member countries with a state-of-the-art vehicle and driver registration and licensing system.

With job creation such a major consideration in South Africa, it is also important to note that public-private sector partnerships should be designed in such a way that they create jobs directly and indirectly, especially in the SMME space which is so vital to South Africa’s future growth and development prospects.

By Tebogo Mphuti, CEO of Tasima

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