Finance Indaba 2018: How CIPC is transforming through tech

CIPC commissioner Rory Voller speaks about the efficiency gains and digital drive of the regulator - as well as the big financial reporting shift that your business needs to know about.

Rory Voller is the commissioner of the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) – part of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) group. This organisation is technically an organ of state but not strictly in public service. Rather, it manages and regulates matters like the registration of companies and intellectual property rights – including trademarks, patents, copyright, and designs), facilitates disclosure of information, and compliance with financial reporting standards.

 

 

 

 

Formerly CIPRO, the new and improved CIPC was established through the revamped Companies Act, 2008 (Act No. 71 of 2008). It was an act that Rory was directly involved in drafting – using his training and previous career experience in law. In fact, he first joined CIPC (then CIPRO) as head of legal services around 15 years ago before working his way up through to ranks to deputy commissioner, and then commissioner in 2016.

 

Q. How has CIPC evolved during your time there?

 

A. CIPRO was basically an administrator of company law. It was only really involved in the registration of companies and close corporations, as well as the maintenance of these entities, and disclosure factors. The organisation was very administrative in nature.

 

Those functions have remained in CIPC, but the fundamental change (underpinned by the new Act) is that the CIPC became a regulator of company law. Through this, we gained enhanced powers to enforce, enhanced powers of governance and surveillance, and new powers of investigation. We can now go out and regulate entities that fall under our scope (under the act), in order for us to ensure the enhancement of governance in these entities, as well as curtailing non-compliance. It’s summed up in the change from administrator to regulator.

Q. How has CIPC improved in recent years?

 

A. The organisation was dogged for many years with inefficiencies. We were taken to task by the media over things such as the length of time it took to register companies. And we’ve made huge strides in addressing these issues, chasing efficiency gains through our process and organisational changes. We are now digital-driven, fast and service-focused.

 

Q. What are the typical regulation issues that come before you?

A. These are all about non-compliance with the law. People don't report things. They don't inform the shareholders about what's happening with board decisions. They don't deal with their financials as the law requires. They trade under insolvent conditions, which is reckless trading. There are numerous non-compliance issues that we regulate.

 

Q. Beyond compliance, how can CIPC partner with business?

 

A. We believe we can play the role of an enabler through those efficiency gains we’ve made. In business, we understand that you want things to be done speedily without compromising quality. So we've met with various stakeholders – from the accounting profession, the legal fraternity, the companies secretarial profession – to see how we can support you in getting on with doing business. We've collaborated with the banks, so that entrepreneurs can walk into any of the four major banks to register a company. We partnered with the BEE Commission to make this a one-stop-shop approach, so you can now register your company, get your business banking account, and get your BEE certificate – all at one place. We're also reducing the reliance on paper, and doing as much as possible online. In the regulatory space, we host webinars, workshops, and seminars on governance issues, directors duties, to educate and support businesses.

 

Q. How has technology has enabled these changes?

 

A. Technology is the major focus and the biggest driver that we've got. It is because of technology that we have managed to gain these enhancements and efficiencies. We like to think that we are now at the forefront of innovation in this space. We have an in-house innovation unit that push us forward.

 

Now you can register a company with the CIPC in two to four hours. We will email you that registration certificate. It takes us less than a day to deal with, for example, the amendment of directors’ details. It’s all happening online, with no human interaction. In the last six months, we have received four awards for these efficiency gains and for the modernisation of our organisation.

 

Q. The CIPC has signed on as a Gold partner for Finance Indaba 2018. Why are you getting involved and what are you hoping to gain from the Indaba?

 

Q. The Indaba is the biggest gathering of finance professionals in the country. It relates directly back to our mandate to enhance the financial accountability of and regulation around companies. We are also in the process of rolling out a massive project called XBRL – which stands for extensible business reporting language. This is a mechanism for companies to report on an annual basis, as per the companies act, on their financials. XBRL transforms financial reporting, bringing together disparate reporting formats, and providing uniformity. And we want to engage finance professionals around this change, which is legally mandated.