Buying used car is one difficult job to get done in Pakistan. What is more difficult is getting the legal title of a newly purchased used car transferred to one’s own name. The procedure is so long and spread over a long number of steps that most buyers prefer not to get the title transferred for a long period of time or get the help of a transfer agent who get the job done by paying a small amount to the officials as facilitation payment (bribe is an ugly word) who sign the transfer documents without physical appearance of the seller in front of an inspector, which otherwise is a legal requirement in all provinces of Pakistan. In short, the complete procedure is a mess and most people opt for the shortcut, which obviously is illegal, mainly because of the lack of understanding of the procedure. There is so much paperwork involved in the process that even the educated class never gets the job done without the help of an expert of the subject matter or an agent.
The problem lies in two major areas, which I would try to briefly explain below:
- Complexity of the procedure
- Poorly designed and ill-coordinated registration authorities
Complexity of the procedure:
Procedure of transfer in Islamabad:
The process in Islamabad follows something like this,
- The buyer and the seller both have to go to the Excise office, where, after filling out manual forms and deposit of bank fees, a T.O Form is issued.
- Then they have to appear physically before an officer called the Inspector, who physically verify the CNICs of both the seller and the buyer and after verification, mark the T.O Form as “Physically appeared” and sign the same. At this point, one might think that the seller is not free to go as an inspector has marked his attendance.
- However, the buyer is now required to submit transfer fee along with some withholding taxes etc. in National Bank and fill out other forms and attach the previously signed T.O Form with these forms and stand in a queue for submission of the same.
- At this point, the seller is again required to appear. There is only one window at this point and the queue is so long that it normally takes an average of two to three hours until your turn. The officer at the window enters the records in a computer system and refers you to a next window called as Scanning where some scanning of the documents is performed. God knows what that is for.
- After the scanning is complete, you are referred to the last window where the forms are submitted and an acknowledgement is issued which mentions the date after which the title document will the returned to you with the title transferred in your name.
- When you receive the registration book after a minimum period of two weeks, what you witness as a proof of transfer is your name written by hand on the registration book and signed and stamped. By looking at the whole process and the extent of use of computer during the whole process, one might expect to get an advanced level chip type registration and transfer proof.
Procedure of transfer in UK:
- In most of the cities in UK, the procedure of transfer is extremely simple.
- The seller at the time of selling the vehicle fills relevant areas in a specific form given at the end of the registration book and sign it and hand it over to the buyer. The buyer completes the remaining relevant areas and put that form in Post Box. The form is pre-addressed to the registration authority. The Authority, after receipt of the form, completes all the verifications and other related matters by themselves and issue a new registration book to the buyer, which is sent to the buyer by post. Thanks to the state of the art postal system of UK, the process is complete.
Procedure of transfer in other countries:
- In most of the developed countries, the procedure for transfer of legal title of vehicle consists of simple one or two steps, which is completed within one day. The maximum struggle one has to undergo is to visit the office of the transferring authority, rest every thing is taken care of by them.
Recently, there have been many changes in Islamabad motor vehicle registration process, including issuance of a card type registration book, the core of the process, however, remains the same. No physical step has been reduced or eliminated; in fact additional steps are introduced, which is making the process more complex. Ideally, in such a time where crypto-currencies have been introduced, the concept of a physical registration book should have become obsolete. Here is how the process should be:
- An online website where a request for transfer of vehicle registration should be generated by the buyer simply by filling an online form and providing complete required information, including evidence of payment of transfer fee using advanced payment methods.
- The authorities should process the information according to their requirements, avoiding hard papers as much as possible, and provide a date and time for physical appearance of the buyer and seller in front of an inspector. To take this step to another level, stype or even other methods of video callings could be used.
- All due verifications should be the responsibility of the authorities and not the buyers or the sellers, like attestation by public officers. CNICs could now be verified using NADRA’s online verification system.
- After all the required information is provided and verifications have been completed, the transfer should be done in the new owner’s name and he should be intimated using email or SMS.
Poorly designed and ill-coordinated registration authorities:
Administratively, Pakistan has been divided in to a Federal Capital, four provinces, two autonomous territories and a group of Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The provinces are further divided into administrative units called divisions and each division is subdivided into a number of districts. Each administrative unit (provinces and capital etc.) has its own department for matters related to motor vehicle registration and transfers. The department for each province normally has a two-tier structure, a Directorate General at Provincial level and Secretariats/Offices at district level. E.g. Punjab has an Excise and Taxation Department at provincial level and Offices at district level like Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan, and Faisalabad etc.
One issue here is the lack of co-ordination between theses distinct authorities. There might be some co-ordination among the authorities within a same province but there is little or almost zero co-ordination among the authorities in other provinces.
The maturity level of use of IT at our Excise and Taxation Authorities is at very initial stages. Until recently, there was no online verification source available for vehicles. Although, all provinces have now setup their own websites that provides some information about vehicles registered with them, however, these websites are not integrated with the Management Systems used by the authorities and therefore not updated regularly. Most of the information available on them is outdated. Last time I checked, the Punjab MTMIS website server was down for over two weeks. The servers chosen for the website cannot handle even a little larger traffics. The websites are so poorly designed that it needs a lot of struggle to understand the functioning of it.
Since, this is an era of technology, the authorities are using the same, which means less struggle at the end of the customer as well as the authorities. However, the way the technology is being used is creating unnecessary requirements for customers and has become simply a mess. One such example is, after completion of forms and before submission with the authority, attestation by a gazetted public officer is required, which negates the purpose of the use of technology. If verification is required, why customers are ordered to do the same instead of using technology by themselves.
In short, from long queues at banks in scorching heat at a time when advanced sophisticated systems of payments are available, to filling complex and non-understandable forms and physically going through a number of windows at such a time where online websites or use of smartphones can help simplify the process and even reduce costs significantly, the whole process of transferring the cars in one’s name is a complete mess. The authorities should take steps towards modernization of the systems and avail the actual benefits of the technologies rather than mere additions of IT steps along with physical paper work, which provide nothing but duplication of information and increased requirements. One practicable solution to all these problems is funding universities to involve students and faculty members to devise systems, which will actually benefit the users by saving their time as well as cost.
If you faced any additional problems, which you think are worth mentioning, please comment below. Any criticism or suggestions are also welcome.