By Chamindi Ekanayake
Registrar of Companies down D.R. Wijewardena Mawatha, Colombo 10 is the focal point for company incorporations in the island. Anyone who intends to register a company, to maintain the company records or to obtain details about a company will have to visit this place. Like any government office, queues are long and the procedures are hectic.
There were many attempts throughout the years to digitalise the company registry. In addition the fact company incorporation takes three to four working days and the numerous procedures in place to set up a company was punishing for the Ease of Doing Business rankings of Sri Lanka. Ease of Doing Business Ranking Index is an annual benchmark survey done by the World Bank to measure the ease of doing business in a particular country. This index includes rankings for ease of starting a business in the country. For years the Sri Lankan Government wanted to improve the Doing Business Rankings on starting a business in Sri Lanka as means of wooing more foreign investors. The Registrar of Companies started many initiatives and tried to cut down the processes but nothing seemed to work. Many countries have digitalised their company incorporation procedures and it takes a few minutes. Comparatively in Sri Lanka company incorporation takes a few days and also a few visits to the Registrar of Companies. This procedure inconveniences many local and foreign investors.
But last week the Registrar of Companies informed that together with ICTA (Information and Telecommunication Agency, Sri Lanka) they are launching a digital platform by the name of “e-ROC” whereby from 31 March anyone can incorporate a company online and the incorporation can be done within an hour. It is also expected that the Department of Inland Revenue and the Department of Labour will be linked to the system. Thereafter it is not required for the company to visit these departments separately with original and certified true copies of incorporation documents to register the company, that the respective departments can verify the data using the e-ROC. In addition it is expected that the banks too can have access to e-ROC and they also can verify data through e-ROC when setting up bank accounts for the new companies. Later in the year the Registrar of Companies will completely digitalise the systems and thereafter other company fillings, company searches and certified true copies of documents can be obtained online. This is indeed happy news for anyone who has been to the Registrar of Companies. No doubt there will be hiccups at the beginning. It is expected. But nevertheless this initiative is to be appreciated as regulars at the Registrar of Companies. The Registrar of Companies has aptly described the e-ROC system as “no more visits to the Registrar of Companies, no more wasting time.” Let’s hope that the initial promises will be kept.
(The writer is an Attorney-at-Law.)