Vancouver British Columbia (population 602,000) is Canada's third largest city. Its advanced labor force, trade links to the Pacific Rim and tourism industry give the city a strong economy and an ever-growing volume of licensing transactions. To handle this growth, Vancouver bought AMANDA in 1996 for its licensing department. Licensing went live in 1997 and now handles 200 different types of licenses on AMANDA. Over 95,000 licenses are issued every year, accounting for approximately $11 million in annual license fees. Rosemary Hagiwara, the city's Licensing Department Manager, says "This is such an important source of revenue we needed a system with the flexibility to meet our needs today, as well as in the future."
Business and Professional Licenses
Two-thirds of Vancouver's licenses are for businesses and professionals. City staff appreciate AMANDA's central database of all customer names and addresses, which gives them one-click access to the entire history of a license. The system gathers information that's relevant to each type of business the city licenses, which ranges from financial institutions to restaurants serving alcohol. For example, retail businesses must report vending machines and cash machines, which prompts the system to charge additional fees. As these cash machines are not regulated like bank machines, they are susceptible to tampering and stealing of personal banking information. By knowing where these devices are installed, licensing staff can quickly inform Police who can respond to these complaints. Vancouver licenses all types of occupations, including: lawyers, health care professionals, buskers, social escorts and home-based professionals like seamstresses. Trades licenses are tied into contractor business licenses, ensuring that builders stay current with their accreditation. Expired qualifications will stop a license from being issued but the system can still accept payment.
Vancouver uses AMANDA for taxicab, school bus and tow truck licenses. Each license can be linked to any other AMANDA license. This gives them one-click access to all the taxi's and the taxi owner's records so they can cross-check both before they issue or renew the licenses. AMANDA has enabled Vancouver to generate reports on outstanding accounts, which helps their inspectors know who to target for fee collections. The system gives them statistics on how much is being collected each year by the inspectors and the number of delinquent accounts they have before each renewal season. Vancouver wanted to curb companies with revoked licenses from re-opening under a different license. They tackled the problem by setting up AMANDA to require legal company name for most license applications. Before issuing these licenses, the system requires clerks to verify their articles of incorporation in government registries; it also applies a service charge to recover this cost. By tracking licenses by parent company, no matter how many licenses a business operates under, Vancouver can identify those that are abusing the system.
AMANDA Lessens Pain of Renewals for Overworked Staff
To cope with their large volume of licenses, Vancouver processes renewals in batches. AMANDA's renewal logic can automatically create new licenses and carry over the fees as arrears or it can withhold renewal until the outstanding fees have been paid. In jurisdictions that leave renewal up to individuals, the system can easily retrieve all expired licenses when they come in to renew. It can also send a single renewal notice for all licenses. Renewal forms contain barcodes, so that licensing clerks retrieve all renewing licenses by scanning the barcode. Vancouver recently switched to a staggered renewal process for some licenses. Formerly, staff were overtaxed by annual events like dog license renewals. AMANDA allows them to have these licenses expire at any interval that's convenient for staff. They have improved renewal rates and saved on costs by sending reminder notices based on specific criteria, such as all licenses expiring in the next 30 days.
A few years ago, Vancouver began using AMANDA's built-in e-commerce capabilities to renew licenses via the web. The online option has reduced the department's workload and has let them reassign resources elsewhere. Approximately 15% of licensees now renew online - rather than standing in line. Vancouver's goal is to have online licensing continue to increase in the next few years.
When it comes to dog licenses, the system collects information such as tag number, tattoos and other markings. When complaints about unruly dogs come in, staff can quickly search the database for matching descriptions. All this data can also be used to search records when identifying and returning lost dogs to their owners. The system also captures whether a dog is spayed or neutered and charges neutered dogs a lower licensing fee. This encourages Vancouver dog owners to help control the dog population.
Benefiting from Flexibility
Ms. Hagiwara sums up her thoughts on AMANDA by saying "Vancouver is a big city with its own unique conventions. We implemented AMANDA to automate our complex policies and procedures for handling large volumes and for collecting large sums in revenue. The system's flexibility has ended up doing much more than we originally expected." Vancouver's future plans include integrating images with their Enterprise Document Management System (EDMS) and tying other departments into their processes by expanding the AMANDA workflow.