Sat | Apr 29, 2017

New superform still a hindrance

Published:Friday | October 24, 2014 | 10:00 AM

The recently instituted 'superform' at the Companies Office of Jamaica was initiated to cut red tape.

The intention is good but the implementation, training and the cutting of bureaucracy and processing time required of a business applicant have not worked to applicants' expectations. And given the positive hoopla that accompanied the launch, things have not gone to plan either.

With a view to help the powers that be to transform the vaunted superform into an effective vehicle to make the establishment of business easier, and more hassle-free - which is the stated objective of the bureaucratic brains behind the supposedly red-tape-cutting document - I will outline the very recent experience of a friend of mine who is setting up a new business.

My friend, an attorney, went to the Companies Office and used the superform to submit an application to form a new company.

New TRN and NIS numbers were provided and the person was told by the registrar's office that a Tax Compliance Certificate number - TCC - was required to complete the registration process. The TCC could be secured at a tax office - none of which was excluded by the company registrar's office.

Immediately, my mind throws up the question as to why arrangements were not made by the government policymakers and employees, who designed the process and created the form, to have the TCC issued with the other requirements for registration. But that is not how we work. Worse was still to come.

The citizen applicant, my friend, then went to the Cross Roads tax office, waited 35-40 minutes in line in order to get to the counter to request a new TCC for the prospective business. All that time spent in the line was wasted because, on making the request, the clerk explained that the Cross Roads tax office did not supply TCCs.

Why couldn't the company registrar's office supply this information to the applicant? How much better it would have been if the company registrar was empowered and enabled to issue all the information required to complete the process - all in one place.

That would be more like Dubai and would be super, indeed.

SUPERFORM NEEDS SUPER OVERHAUL

The fanfare and publicity with which the superform was launched served to oversell the ease of registration of new companies.

In practice, expectations far outweighed delivery and performance at the government agencies. The counter clerk at the Cross Roads tax office was mystified when asked by my friend what were the full requirements to secure a TCC for a new company. The citizen applicant was directed upstairs to find an answer.

It was about two o'clock and the three women upstairs were eating lunch. The one who attended to my friend did not really have a clue about the government-instituted superform.

The trek was made to the Constant Spring tax office, but the persons dealing with the issue there were really not much more informed than their Cross Roads colleagues. They also did not really know what was required to secure the TCC number.

It is very clear from my friend's experience with the Companies Office and tax office personnel that too little, if any, training was given to the staff at the various government offices who have to deal with the superform registration.

Why couldn't this training be given to every government employee involved in superform processing?

WHY NOT ONLINE APPLICATIONS?

I cannot understand why it is beyond us as a nation to design a form and process in 2013-14 which allows one to sit at one's desk, use an iPad or similar device to access the superform online, complete the registration requirements, and submit the form with payment by a credit card.

That is what is normal in the state of Georgia in the United States and other places such as Dubai and Singapore, which have so simplified and speeded up their formation process that they must be close to the point where registration is completed and paid for almost as quickly as the business person thinks of setting up a company.

The superform experience of my friend is symptomatic in large part of how our Government runs our affairs. Much talk is made about making Government more efficient and geared to provide a consistently high quality of service to citizens and residents in the country.

I cannot properly judge intentions, which I cannot see. What can be seen is the severe disconnect between the promised service and ease of process versus the almost exact opposite in practice.

What we offer and deliver are so often below decent and accepted standards that improvement is not terribly difficult to achieve. What is really difficult is for our Government to summon up the political will to make our government institutions and practices efficient and effective at serving people.

We also make excuses, which shouldn't be accepted, to take half-measures and turn around and congratulate ourselves.

Why couldn't the superform be done completely online and payment be made online in 2014? Why are we still being asked by our Government to fill out paper forms and schlep from one uninformed government office to another?

The continuing inefficiency is palpable. It really doesn't have to be this way. Let us, as a people, push to change this growth-killing approach to the delivery of government services.

Aubyn Hill is CEO of Corporate Strategies Ltd and chair of the opposition leader's Economic Advisory Council.Email: writerhill@gmail.comTwitter: @HillAubynFacebook: facebook.com/Corporate.Strategies