Chief Surveyor General

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  The examination period, which had been a bone of contention with professional land surveyors for years, has been reduced to fewer than ten working days. In the past, land surveyors had to contend with an examination period ranging from three to six weeks, and in some cases even longer.

The Surveyor-General's office was for years seen as a stumbling block in the registration process and was blamed for the protracted time taken to present a client with an approved diagram. Chief Surveyor-General Apie van den Berg has hailed the improvement as an outstanding achievement, "When I first laid down this challenge, little did I realise our staff was capable of such dedication and team work. I would have been happy with an examination period of 15 to 20 days, but this is beyond my wildest dreams".

The motivation for introducing the new 10-day programme is to bring the SGO in line with other professions that are involved in working towards the registration of land. Modern developments often have large sums of money invested and return on these investments cannot be realised until units are registered in the Deeds Office.

Professional land surveyors are under considerable pressure to provide their clients with approved diagrams, general plans or draft sectional plans in as short a time as possible.

An extended examination period can be extremely costly for the developer and the land surveyor is often held directly accountable for any delays encountered during the approval of survey records prior to registration.

In order to reduce the cost to the developer, relieve some of the burden on the land surveyor and improve the quality of service and the image of the department, the Surveyor-General's office is committed to providing a consistent examination period of ten working days for all survey records lodged.

The Cape Town office has been successful in processing survey records within the ten-day deadline since December, and aims to keep it that way.

Buoyed by the success of the ten-day approval process a representative group of 25 members of the Cape Town office embarked on a Strategic Planning Workshop at Arniston in February.

After three days of studying exercises, taking stock of the present, looking at the future, clarifying the issues and challenges, beverages, fun and repartee, a plan began to emerge. The old autocratic management style was finally put on the trash heap and the new open participative style appeared to be accepted by all the participants. The vision of the office came into focus as: -

  "To ensure the surveyed land rights of the region, by means of world class service, based on a transformed work environment."

Many staff members were a little mesmerised, maybe overawed is a better word, by the concept of their office giving a world class service, but all felt proud that they could at least aim for it.

In looking at the future, five strategic issues were identified, which would affect and guide progress for the next 5 years. These are: -

  • A paperless environment
  • Accessibility of Data
  • Maintain the ten-day approval process
  • The informal cadastre
  • Staff Development/transformation/career pathing

These issues are not necessarily listed in importance, but were identified as the ones to conquer in order to achieve world class service.

The paperless environment involves digital lodgement of survey records, diagrams and general plans by Professional Land Surveyors and a task team has already met and devised a program to achieve this objective. This program is designed to build on small successes, culminating in a full lodgement, approval, filing, retrieval digital handling management system, country wide, which will finally link these approved documents to the Deeds Office and Conveyancers.

"The accessibility of our data is a crucial part of our strategic action plan, which will hopefully link all of the many users to the computer database. " A task team is investigating the set-up of appointing SG Agents countrywide to be able to provide public access to all property related data for their areas at realistic prices", Mr Van der Berg said.

The fact that the office has only eight million properties in South Africa with a 40 million population brings home the need for information on all informal settlements. The Chief Surveyor-General is in the process of adding this information in order for it to be made available to Government Departments, Planners and Land Surveyors. Needless to say, maintaining the ten-day approval process is now a non-negotiable strategic issue in the office.