Interview of Mrs. Deoyani Hurrynag,

Acting Registrar-General

Mrs. Deoyani Hurrynag heads the Registrar-General’s Department and assumed office as Acting Registrar-General since January 2020. She is also the Acting Conservator of Mortgages. 

The Registrar-General’s Department has undergone major transformations during the past decade. Can you please give us an oversight of this journey?

The Registrar-General’s Department (RGD) operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development and exists since 1804. Through time, its operations have considerably evolved.

Previously, title deeds and documents were handwritten with permanent ink and registrations and transcriptions were done manually in registers. Searches were being carried out by flipping through big and heavy registers. These were strenuous processes. Additionally, professionals and members of the public were queueing up for long hours to avail of the services of the Department. In 2005, the World Bank, in its Doing Business Report, stated that it takes 210 days to register a property in Mauritius, thus ranking Mauritius at the 157th place out of 183 countries in terms of registering property.

Furthermore, the paper-based archive started to deteriorate, registers were being torn out. The increase in transactions generated more documents and archiving required more space. There was therefore a dire need to reform and align the RGD with international best practices.

Consequently, the Mauritius e-Registry Project (MeRP) was launched in 2013 to transform RGD into an eService organization by harnessing the latest technologies and solutions that can provide integrated workflows and simplified options for professionals to conduct online transactions. The project aimed inter-alia to reduce time taken for registration of transactions, to avoid queuing for services at RGD, to adopt the green initiative by eliminating usage of paper, to reduce complexity of registration processes and provide an online service.

In October 2019, we can say that the reforms came to fruition. The World Bank in its latest publication, the Doing Business Report 2020, positioned Mauritius at the 23rd position out of 190 countries for its ease of registering property. This represents a staggering leap of 134 places within a span of 14 years. It is also important to highlight the contribution of my predecessors and the staffs of the RGD who have been instrumental in achieving these highly commendable results.

Since I took Office, I have been building on this legacy to further progress along this innovative path to transformation.

We have embarked upon a project to upgrade the hardware infrastructure which had reached the end of its life cycle. Following the replacement with new hardware, a project for upgrading our IT System, the Mauritius eRegistry System (MeRS), and migration of all applications and data to the upgraded IT infrastructure, were successfully implemented. Since then, several enhancements are under way to make the customer service more effective.

What specific reforms have been made to ease and expedite the process of registering a property?

In recent years, an array of changes has been made towards easing the process of registering property in Mauritius. The MeRS is now fully operational with an in-built taxation engine coupled with various payment options. The system is fully automated and provides for the following:

  • remote online search for encumbrances,
  • online submission of the deed for registration and transcription,
  • online payment of duties and taxes if applicable,
  • insertion of e seal,
  • publication of registered document and sending the registered and transcribed document back to stakeholders electronically with the electronic seal affixed. Additionally, the RGD introduced a 2-hour Service Level Agreement for transcription and registration of documents.

In 2018, the Registration Duty Act 1804 was amended so that a new survey plan is no longer required for land parcels with an assigned Parcel Identification Number (PIN) to which no change have been made to their extents and boundaries. Along the same vein, land surveyors can make an application for a PIN electronically with the Ministry of Housing and Land Use Planning.  In 2019, The Stamp Duty Act was abolished, and Stamp Duty is no longer levied on property transactions.

This headway proved to be instrumental during the Covid-19 crisis and ensuing lockdown where transactions could still be made remotely to ensure business continuity. Our automated system allowed us to reinvent ourselves and respond promptly to the need of our stakeholders, supported by the setting up of a Work-from-Home Team.

Most recently, the RGD has made significant investment into upscaling the capacity of its servers. Consequently, several stakeholders such as notaries, banks, leasing companies, land surveyors and various Government Agencies can now conduct online searches remotely. Following amendments through The Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020, it is mandatory since 3 November 2020 for notaries, banks, insurance companies, leasing companies and dealers in new and imported second-hand motor vehicles to submit their deeds for registration electronically.

Furthermore, other modes of ePayment will be introduced shortly besides online payment through credit and debit card – the Direct Debit System being currently under development.

Can you please elaborate on the collaboration between the RGD and the National Land Transport Authority (NLTA) to make it easier to register a vehicle?

In line with Government strategy towards digitalisation of services, both the NLTA and RGD are working together to implement an online registration system for the registration of motor vehicles. This will allow people to complete the whole registration process from the comfort of their home.

As an immediate solution for the one-stop-shop, as from 10 August 2020, satellite counters of the National and Land Transport Authority (NLTA) became fully operational on the premises of the RGD, that is, Level 6, Emmanuel Anquetil Building, Port-Louis. This physical one-stop-shop for the registration of motor vehicles services on average 110 additional customers for the issue of the “Certificat de Gages sans Deplacement” on a daily basis. The advent of this facility has been pleasantly welcomed by the public at large because it saves customers from going back and forth.

How can someone access the voluminous data held at the RGD?

All the data are now stored digitally in our system. Anybody paying a search fee can access the system. In the past, searches on our database could only be carried out from our search room at our premises. However, now online accesses have been granted to notaries, banks, land surveyors, insurance companies and several public sector agencies upon request. This development allows key stakeholders to query the database outside office hours and at the same time, this optimises office space. This service will be made available on a 24/7 basis to the public soon. Additionally, the Land Administration and Valuation Information Management System (LAVIMS) 2.0 project by the Ministry of Housing and Land Use Planning will further enhance transparency as the public will be able to access the cadastre.  The RGD also publishes monthly statistics on the number of transactions by type  Furthermore, there exists a complaint mechanism on the website of the RGD where a dissatisfied customer can lodge a complaint. The complaint is sent to the relevant unit and is dealt with within a maximum of 5 working days.

What are the upcoming initiatives by the RGD?

The Government of Mauritius signed a Reimbursable Advisory Services Agreement with the World Bank for technical assistance to the RGD in its quest to improve the Secured Transactions Regime in Mauritius. This landmark venture is being conducted in close collaboration with the Economic Development Board of Mauritius. The goal of this reform is to enhance access to credit facilities, particularly for micro, small and medium enterprises, by improving the legal and institutional frameworks governing secured transactions with respect to movable property in Mauritius. The team has completed their legal assessment and consultations are on-going with both public and private stakeholders, namely Bank of Mauritius, Corporate and Business Registration Department, National Land Transport Authority, Business Mauritius, Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry, SME Mauritius, SME federations, commercial banks, and law firms remotely amidst the travel restrictions imposed due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. Several regulatory amendments shall be required ensuing the final report which will be the foundation for a modern collateral registry, following which, registrations, amendments, cancellations and searches can be performed online.

On a broader note, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated the pace of structural changes.

At the technical level, a project has been initiated for the implementation of a Disaster Recovery (DR) Site and establishment of a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) with the assistance of UNDP.

What shall be the opportunities open to businesses with the advent of such a collateral registry?

Businesses, especially SMEs, will have a dizzying array of options in terms of the types of collaterals they can pledge to secure finance with lending institutions such as inventory and raw goods, invoices, accounts receivables, vehicles, durable consumer goods, bank accounts, intellectual property rights, industrial and agricultural equipment and so on. As a matter of fact, most of businesses have their capital tied up in movable assets whilst the majority of collaterals solicited by financial institutions are immovable properties. This reform will hence be instrumental in addressing this market mismatch by providing a secure platform for such transactions. This measure may also serve as a strategy to boost business activity and stimulate economic growth of impacted sectors in the aftermath of the COVID 19 pandemic. A lot of countries in the region have already made inroads in that direction, where SMEs are able to raise funds by using mostly movable collaterals.