Company registration and business licensing organisation the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) reports that companies will soon be able to attain black economic-empowerment (BEE) certificates from South Africa’s four main banking institutions.
CIPC commissioner Advocate Rory Voller notes that the pilot phase, completed at Nedbank, has been successful. This means that the CIPC can begin rolling out this service at the rest of the “big four banks” in the coming weeks.
Voller comments that this service forms part of the CIPC’s aim to establish a seamless process for new businesses. He notes that the CIPC has collaborated with these banks to simplify the company registration process and other related services.
He states that, in the near future, “small businesses will be able to attain their company registration, tax certificate, and BEE certificate from one of the big four banks when they open their business banking accounts”
BEE legislation exempts small enterprises with an annual turnover of less than R10-million from having to acquire a BEE certificate. Instead, such enterprises need only provide an affidavit that includes ownership and turnover information. However, the Department of Trade and Industry and the CIPC agreed to offer an integrated service for company registration and the issuing of BEE affidavits or certificates, so that microenterprises could have formal documentation for their records.
Voller comments that the CIPC’s work with the banks, as well as the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), has been beneficial in terms of streamlining the company registration process, particularly in terms of the validation and verification of information. This is partially due to the banks’ Know Your Customer rules and their obligations under the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, as well as their implementation of biometric systems, which are linked to DHA.
Additionally, the roll-out of these services at banks has increased the efficiency of the CIPC, as well as convenience.
Voller points out that the CIPC received a clean audit from the auditor-general for the 2016/17 financial year – its first clean audit since its inception in 2011.
This was followed by the announcement that the CIPC was co-winner for the innovative use of technology to improve service delivery at the Centre for Public Service Innovation Awards. The commission was also the runner-up in the category Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Service Delivery Transformation at the GovTech SITA ICT Award.
A clean audit means the CIPC 2016/17 financial statements were free from material misstatements and there were no material findings on the reporting of performance objectives or noncompliance with legislation.
The recognition of its improved management structure and process, as well as its use of technology, was significant to the CIPC, as it had been trying to enhance service delivery since its establishment, which resulted from the merger of the then Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro) and the Office of Company and Intellectual Property Enforcement, following the promulgation of the Companies Act of 2008.
Voller notes that the CIPC established a year-long commission to address the “corporate governance issues” that plagued Cipro. The commissions and the resolutions that came from them have resulted in the CIPC reducing turnaround times for company registration from about 30 days in 2011 to between two and six hours today.
Further, the CIPC addressed the accessibility issues, which resulted from a paper-based, centralised registration office in Pretoria by collaborating with the banks and expanding its footprint.
Finally, Voller points to the CIPC’s in-house upgrade of its information technology infrastructure and the modernisation of its systems, which reduces human error and increases throughput and efficiency as customers are empowered to capture their own data. “The previous paper-based system resulted in numerous capturing errors, which resulted in enormous amounts of rework and high frustration levels for both customers and CIPC officials.” Part of the modernisation push was the implementation of biometric systems for improved identity verification systems.
Voller stresses that, while a large proportion of the CIPC’s processes has become automated, the CIPC has not reduced its staffed complement and is instead upskilling and retraining some of its staff.