By Linda Ensor

The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CPIC) and First National Bank (FNB) will launch a new initiative next month which will link the speedy registration of companies within one day with the opening of a bank account.

The project which has taken 18 months to finalise has been piloted with FNB in order to ensure the system worked properly but other banks such as Nedbank‚ Standard and Absa had been invited to participate as well‚ Parliament's portfolio committee was told on Thursday by the CPIC's senior manager Rehelda Williams. The other banks seemed quite keen on the scheme but needed to work on their systems‚ she said.

FNB would register a company with the CPIC at the same time that it opened a bank account for a company.

Commissioner Astrid Ludin believed the collaboration with banks - a world first - would have a "transformational impact" on the registration of standard companies. The process would not include the reservation of company names.

E-filing - already a reality for company registrations - will also be possible for intellectual property applications such as trademarks‚ designs and patents for the first time in the next few weeks. The system was fully tested this week‚ Ludin said.

Williams said it currently took the CPIC one day to process an electronically filed application for a company registration provided that the necessary funds were in the bank and all the documents were correctly submitted.

All these initiatives are aimed at expediting the process of company registration‚ a vital element in the ease of starting a business which historically has been a long one in SA compared to other countries. Ludin said the preparatory work undertaken by the commission over the last two years was expected to bear fruit this year.

The commission had undertaken a concerted effort to clean up and correct its databases and had made a lot of progress in ensuring the integrity of the data of the companies register. This too has been a problem in the past with fraudulent changes being made to the directorships of companies.

Closer relationships were also being forged with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the department of home affairs. The aim would be to establish high speed links and the exchange and verification data and provide an integrated service. For example‚ SARS could register a company at the same time as it registered it for VAT. All this would make it easier to transact with government but would probably take 18 months to implement‚ Ludin said.

The commission planned to ensure greater efficiency of its call centre this year‚ and projects an improvement in the call answer rate from the current 28% to 50% and ultimately 90% over the medium term.

It projects that 70% (66% last year ) of the forecast 207‚000 (200‚000) new company registrations this year will be filed electronically and 30% of the projected 37‚536 (33‚452) trade mark registrations.

Ludin said a further 300‚000 companies would be deregistered by June in addition to the 110‚000 deregistered in January. These were companies which had been delinquent for the past two years. These would be the last bulk deregistrations - thereafter deregistration would take place on a monthly basis.