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CIPRO faces up to South African Institute of Professional Accountants

02 August 2010:Faced with severe capacity challenges rendering the submission of annual returns a frustrating experience, the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (CIPRO) recently met with the South African Institute of Professional Accountants to acknowledge the issues and provide a way forward for the situation at a gathering in Pretoria last week.

The organisation’s new electronic content management (ECM) system is on hold while the CIPRO website is not adequately handling the high volumes of annual returns which must be processed. This has led to increasing user frustration and discontent amongst various professional organisations. It is in this context that CIPRO met with SAIPA to explain the situation, says Navin Lalsab, Accreditation Compliance and Development Executive at the professional accounting body.

“Specifically, our members are experiencing frustration and obstruction in terms of filing statutory returns as required by the Companies Act. In effect, the challenges faced by CIPRO are compromising the ability for professional accountants to do their work effectively,” Lalsab explains.

CIPRO’S head of communication, marketing and stakeholder relations, Elsabé Conradie, notes that the organisation is well aware of these difficulties, observing that if the annual returns are not filed, CIPRO assumes they are no longer in business and deregisters them.

“This fear of being deregistered has led to high volumes of annual returns being submitted, causing what is a legacy system to become overloaded. With the limitations of the system and with many entities having left things to the last minute, not everyone was able to lodge their returns successfully,” she says.

Conradie says CIPRO is making efforts to improve the system, including deploying an additional server which will solely process annual returns. She also voiced an appeal for accountants and their clients do execute their filing in good time.

She says that companies that are deregistered for failing to lodge annual returns still have a chance to restore their registration. However, they will have to pay any outstanding penalties on their annual returns, as well as a restoration fee of R150. In mitigation of its shortcomings, Conradie added that there is a process whereby CIPRO can check whether attempts were made to submit, even if they ultimately failed. “Users who had done this would have their registrations restored without having to pay penalties,” she notes.

Conradie points out that despite the recent problems experienced in the delivery of the ECM system, CIPRO is still moving ahead with plans to implement it. Once in place, it is expected that this will improve overall user-friendliness and performance of its website. “Additionally, we will continue to run the old system in parallel for a period, providing the capability to handle any teething troubles,” she says.

Security procedures are also to receive attention, with a promise to make what is a necessary and essential aspect somewhat easier to use within the ECM system.

In addition, says Conradie, CIPRO is progressing in its discussions with the Department of Home Affairs to develop processes to better control the fraudulent use of identity numbers.

Lalsab says SAIPA takes the willingness of CIPRO to acknowledge the issues, and the action taken in terms of measures to address them, bodes well for the future. “Our members and those of other professional bodies have experienced frustration and have felt hamstrung in their ability to do their jobs. However, we are pleased that the organisation is communicating its awareness of the situation as well as measures to solve the problems.”

The organisation has set up a specific e-mail address [annualreturns@cipro.gov.za]where any queries around de-registrations or annual returns submissions can be sent. Furthermore, Conradie says CIPRO is committed to providing a response within three days.