Inside the ugly battle between Estate Agency Affairs Board, Services SETA. Millions at stake, public mudslinging, legal threats, nasty e-mails. The Services SETA CEO, apparently angered by the Estate Agency Affairs Board's failure to follow business correspondence protocol and mudslinging, has withdrawn tens of millions of rands' worth of funding from a programme to professionalise South Africa's estate agents.
Realestateweb reporter Denise Mhlanga has been investigating the ugly battle that has been unfolding between two powerful organizations in the country's residential property sector and uncovered an ugly chain of correspondence between the two (see "related documents" at the end of this article).
The regulatory Estate Agency Affairs Board and the Services Sector Education Training Authority (SSETA) are fighting over the new estate agents education dispensation and who has the legal right to accredit training providers for the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).
It seems the EAAB holds the view that only the board and not SSETA has the final vetting rights whereas SSETA claim this prerogative for themselves on the strength of their South African Qualifications Authority ( SAQA) mandate, explains Ivan Neethling, chairman of the Institute of Estate Agents in the Western Cape.
The EAAB is also resisting SSETA's demand that their prescribed text book which costs R490 per copy should be bought by all trainees when training material is already available to them through the training providers, he says.
The standoff between the EAAB and SSETA could be a serious blow for many individuals in the residential property industry and has raised the question about the implementation of the NQF Level 4 and NQF Level 5 qualifications that will be required of estate agents from 2011 onwards.
According to Neethling, the accreditation issue could have serious consequences and could result in 3 000 agents who have already completed their RPL training with SSETA finding that their qualifications are not recognised by the EAAB as their training providers had not had the EAAB accreditation.
"Equally serious, the feud has now caused the SSETA to withdraw all funding for all RPL programmes and learnerships," said Neethling in a written statement.
Without this funding, estate agents could have to pay between R9 000 and R12 000 to re-qualify under the new regulations. The SSETA has already spent about R70m in assisting with RPL compliance.
In an article published recently, Services SETA said it would launch a class action legal case against the EAAB on behalf of all affected persons. Realestateweb.co.za could not get any comment from the EAAB or Services SETA.
When the working relationship between the two bodies was going on well, SSETA sent a letter to the real estate industry warning them of individuals operating as training providers and RPL assessment centres. The letter briefly explained the SSETA Bursaries for estate agents and the RPL process. Click here to read the letter.
In a another letter sent this year by SSETA to the real estate industry, it is clear that there is no love lost between the two bodies about who wields the power over training providers for estate agents to meet the requirements of the RPL process.
"It appears that there is huge amount of consternation circulating in relation to the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the validity of the NQF 4 level qualification offered by Services SETA accredited training providers. As long as you have obtained your qualification from a training provider accredited by the Services SETA, that qualification is a SAQA approved national qualification at NQF Level 4. No other organisation including any statutory body such as the Estate Agency Affairs Board has any legal right to cast aspersions to accredit training providers," wrote Ivor Blumenthal, Chief executive officer of SETA.
Blumenthal wrote that the information issued by the EAAB on qualifications should be ignored as it is misleading, and he suggested that the EAAB should rather devotes its considerable resources attending to its shortcomings of its core business, including the issuing of fidelity funds certificates.
Blumenthal further said all indications from the EAAB that qualifications legitimately obtained from the Services SETA accredited training providers will not satisfy DTI regulations for EAAB registration should be ignored. Read the letter here.
However, Realestateweb.co.za is in possession of a 13 page letter written in May and addressed to Blumenthal following the article published recently in which the board tries to explain its position.
The board states that it was never its intention to interfere in or undermine the activities of the Services SETA adding that the SETA is in any event, obliged to undertake those functions and activities in accordance with the Skills Development Act, the board wrote in a letter addressed to Services SETA Property Chamber.