Since its inception in or about the year 1804, the department of the Registrar General and Conservator of Mortgages (Registrar General) has been the guardian and conservator of all deeds and documents deposited at the Registrar General's department, the most important of which are title deeds that witness the legal ownership to immovable property of Mauritian citizens and Mauritian companies.
For more than a century, deeds and documents were handwritten and recorded in meticulously maintained paper registers.
The "repertoires" (i.e. directories), which contained all the relevant information regarding land transactions, were huge and heavy books that had to be inspected manually by notaries, their staff as well as the public when searching the records of Registrar General.
In 2002, in her endeavour to further enhance the services of her department to the public, the Registrar General computerised the system of the "repertoires" which were thus made accessible electronically to all. In 2014, in a further effort to improve the efficiency of the Registrar General's department, the Mauritian Government implemented the e-Registry Project with a view to fully modernising the Registrar General's department by providing e-services. In the same breath, training courses were organised for members of the legal profession, banking industry and all those involved in the perfection of security in order to introduce the new system to users and explain its methodology. It must be highlighted however that the use of the remote electronic facilities is not mandatory as this system requires the use of a specific software and technology
Accordingly, since 2015, electronic searches now feature amongst services available at the Registrar General's department. In particular, the following are now done remotely from professional workspaces:
- submitting security documents for perfection (i.e. to be registered and transcribed);
- erasure of perfected security;
- effecting payments;
- effecting searches; and
- receiving documents.
As of 2018, searches are now undertaken on–line. However, for the time being, this service has been made available to notaries only. It is understood that the service will be extended to the remainder of the legal profession as well as to the public at large in a very near future.
By way of example, the perfection and erasure of security have now become a wholly on-line activity such that the following documents are uploaded on the website of the Registrar General's department:
- Security document;
- Global Business Licence of the Mauritian company which created security;
- Certificate of Incorporation of the Mauritian company.
As soon the application is uploaded, a confirmation ticket known as 'transaction receipt' is issued with a tracking number that needs to be mentioned in all on-line correspondence until the perfection of the security document is achieved.
Within 48 hours of uploading the application, a notification of payment is issued on-line confirming the amount to be paid for perfection. As of now only those who have opened an account with the Registrar General are entitled to make on-line payments for perfection. Otherwise the customary cheque payment still applies. There is a deadline of 15 days for payment, failing which the statutory penalty applies.
As soon as payment is made, the perfected documents are available on-line within 24 hours of payment within the deadline period.
An important condition of using the on-line system is that at all times the entity responsible for perfection must retain the physical custody of all original documents, copies of which were uploaded on-line, for review at any time that the Registrar General wishes to see the documents. However, this obligation ceases once the security document has been perfected (i.e. the stamp of the Registrar General is affixed to the security document and bears the date of perfection as well as the volume number in which the perfection has been inscribed in the records of the Registrar General).
Before the advent of the on-line system, the perfection process, on average, took a minimum of 3 weeks since the lodging of the application for perfection for security to be perfected.
- Deed of release signed by the lending institution's representative and the Mauritian company that created security in favour of the lending institution;
- Letter of release signed by an authorised representative of the lending institution to confirm the erasure of the security created in their favour; and
- A duly apostilled power-of-attorney which appoints and vests the lending institution's representative as their agent with the authority to sign the above 2 documents on behalf of the lending institution.
Again, once an application for erasure is uploaded on the system, a transaction receipt is ascribed to it and the same procedure outlined for perfection applies.
The modernisation and computerisation of the services of the Registrar General's department into a paperless remote system, namely the MeRP, is a welcomed innovation following the significant rise of global business in Mauritius over the past decade and the corresponding increase of security granted in favour of international lending institutions by Mauritian companies licensed to undertake global business activities by the Financial Services Commission of Mauritius, the regulator of these services.
Firstly, it has contributed to reinforcing the Mauritian jurisdiction as competitive and that has aligned itself with international practices. Secondly, it has eased the communication process between the Registrar General and applicants which was formerly undertaken by way an exchange of formal letters whilst now it is done by simply uploading a message on the system. Thirdly, the time taken to process applications has significantly reduced namely from an average of three weeks to 72 hours for perfection and six weeks for the erasure process as any other system based on information technology. The MeRP no doubt will have its own challenges; however, the overriding interests that it serves will unquestionably justify its introduction and continued existence in our jurisdiction.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.