The Problem

All Sectors of the public service must be equipped with the appropriate legal, economic and human resources needed in order to transform the quality and efficiency of the service that is offered to customers. To be efficient, our office - The Companies Division of Mauritius – relies first and foremost on business friendly legislations which appeal to local and foreign businesses.

The Companies Division falls under the authority of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. It was in 1984 that the first major revision regarding companies’ legislation was enforced in the country. The Companies Act of 1984 was based on the Singapore Companies Act 1967 (which used as model the Australian Uniform Companies Act of 1961 – the latter being itself modelled on the United Kingdom Companies Act of 1948.). For a long time - more than 25 years - the Companies Division followed the 1984 Act for the incorporation, registering or striking off companies and businesses.

However, with the rapidly changing political, economic and financial trends in the 1990’s, the 1984 Act became outmoded. The country became a Republic on 12 March 1992. The offshore business world was developing at a fast pace and in that very year – 1992 – the Offshore Act was passed and the Companies Division became responsible also for the incorporation of offshore companies (now referred to as Global Business Companies).

Another significant development that took place in our economic landscape was the establishment of the Stock Exchange in 1989. This together with the prospect of Mauritius becoming a major offshore financial centre, called for a review of the legislation that prevailed as regards businesses. The Companies Division was already aware of the shortcomings of the outdated 1984 Act which was no longer responsive to the business needs of the country and international investors. It was understood that a reform of existing legal structures was imperative. A unified legal regime for all local and international companies which responded to the needs of the business community was more than ever required for the country to position itself as a financial hub. Therefore in 2001, a new Companies Act was enacted where all previous laws (including that of 1984) were repealed. From that time the Companies Division was endowed with a single framework for all businesses in Mauritius – Domestic and Global Companies.

On 1st June 2009, to complete the legislative packages, a new insolvency legislation became effective. The Insolvency Act 2009 which includes both Individual and corporate insolvencies replaced several legislations that dated back as far as 1888, the Bankruptcy Ordinance of 1885 (for individual traders), the Insolvency Act 1982 (for individual non-traders), the Companies Act 1984 and the Code Civil Mauricien. This new piece of legislation provides innovative tools to better manage companies during periods of distress. For example, the insolvency law includes a set of provisions relating to alternative measures to bankruptcy, for example, Restructuring, Work Outs and Voluntary Administration.

Thus, appropriate legal structures were set up to facilitate and encourage investment and at the same time to protect the interests of local and international investors.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The implementation of the Companies Act 2001 and other subsequent Acts brought along key benefits as regards delivery of services.

Today, the Companies Division can lawfully position itself as a successful and proactive institution. 125 satisfied members of staff are employed at the Companies Division and attend to some 100,000 members of the public calling at the office.

Recently, in line with government’s initiative to reduce movement of people, the Companies Division has adopted the motto of “Moving Data to People”. We have constantly streamlined our processes to provide a more efficient service to our customers.

Incorporation of companies no longer requires any prior reservation of names, a process which added to the time for incorporation. Additional counters have been set up for the convenience of the public and the services offered are clearly indicated on sign posts. A specific counter has been set up where up to date information of our services are provided to the public. Separate counters have been made available to cater for the submission of documents required under the Acts and the issue of the Business Registration Card.
The waiting time has been considerably reduced. In the waiting area, the public can now consult our files online through a computer terminal. Seating areas are also provided for the comfort of the public. Services to the public are located and limited to one floor area only to avoid unnecessary movement of people. Suggestions from the public as well as complaints - however trivial- are considered with the utmost attention. Measures have been taken to achieve greater efficiency by the use of information technology. A central database of all companies and businesses registered is kept at the office and updated daily. The introduction of e-info services has allowed information on any company to be available online and accessed 24/7 anywhere from the comfort of one’s premises. Statutory Forms in accordance with the Companies Act 2001 and the Business Registration Act 2002 are available at the counters but can also be easily downloaded from the website. Leaflets regarding specific topics of the existing laws: for example - incorporating a company/filing financial statements/dissolving a company (etc) are at the disposal of the public free of charge. These user friendly documents are written in simple layman language, and constitute a practical and essential tool for the person who wishes to set up a company or to carry on a business.

Given that customer satisfaction is a decisive indicator of high performance, surveys have been carried out to measure the quality, quantity and equity of service provision. In that context “the customer comes first” is not just an empty slogan but a fundamental business principle. According to the survey carried out during the month of June 2011, time spent at the service counter was the main grievance of customers. We have addressed that issue to minimize the time spent by customers queuing up at the counter. Every staff member has now been trained to be multi skilled. Thus the staff posted at the counter has the ability to attend to customers for verification as well as acceptance of documents.

Other continuous improvement in service delivery has resulted in a high level of customer care. At the Companies Division, it is believed that improving public service delivery is not a one-off exercise. It is an ongoing and dynamic process.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
It is undeniable that when it comes to decision making, the top management’s role is essential. Service delivery being an all important aspect of the Companies Division, the management team has to devise solutions for its customers’ satisfaction. The Companies Division constantly ensures that prompt, efficient and effective customer service is provided at all times. Thus the need to work as a team and at the same time to strengthen that team spirit which is so trivial in an organisation is recognised as one of the core values of the office

The Companies Division has applied principles required for a transformed Public Service as far as delivery of services is concerned. Our customers include not only the general public but also the business community, professionals like chartered secretaries, chartered accountants, barristers, attorneys, management companies and financial agents but also ministries and parastatal bodies. The users of our services are consulted through customer surveys and meetings for continuous improvement. The results of the consultation are taken into account when decisions are made about the level and type of service to be provided. A balance is constantly being kept between the customers’ needs and expectations and the Companies Division’s reasonable achievements. Resources and relentless efforts are deployed to meet the customers’ most pressing needs. Standards which are relevant and meaningful are complied with. They are even published and displayed at the point of delivery and communicated as widely as possible so that the customers know what type of services they are entitled to; they are also informed that they may make complaints in case of non-observance of the required procedures and practices.

A courteous and respectful greeting does not require any effort. At the Companies Division it is perceived that the concept of courtesy goes much further than asking the officers to smile and saying "Please" and "Thank you" though these are certainly required. It embraces an entire code of behaviour which includes stepping in the shoes of the customers and to understand their grievances to be able to treat them with as much consideration and respect as they would want to receive themselves.

Where customers have little or no choice about the services they receive, information is one of the most powerful tools, and sometimes the only tool that customers can use to claim their right to a good service. The information provided by the staff of the Companies Division is accurate, accessible, consistent, understandable and timely. It is provided in forms which meet the varying needs of different users. For example the Companies Division has set up a special counter for providing information as one cannot expect that written information will be understood by all users: many people prefer to receive information verbally, so that they can ask questions interactively and thus relate to the staff. Failure to give a member of the public a simple, satisfactory explanation to an enquiry may result in an incorrectly completed application form which could be a costly exercise.

Through communication and regular meetings, all members of the staff are made aware of the importance of good quality service. Such values as openness, transparency, responsiveness, sense of innovation would not have been possible if our staff were not sensitized about their role in the Division.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The various strategies used to implement successfully laws which it administers are no visible signs of success. Today the Division takes pride in having achieved a service delivery worthy of the new millennium.

With the introduction of e-government facilities, the Companies Division has been the first public body to transform and modernize its service delivery. Improvement plans have been focused mainly on the existing levels of service and the proposed service standards to be adopted.

The Companies Division has had to cope with the impact of international crisis. The Financial Crisis and the global economic downturn have affected to a large extent the business community, local as well as international customers. Enormous efforts have been made to provide them with a world class service that is fast and reliable. Procedures have been simplified, delays and duplication have been reduced substantially and scarce resources have been redeployed to deliver better services. The half day (3 hours) incorporation of businesses is one of its major achievements.

Technological changes continue to drive the Companies Division towards the use of the most sophisticated and high-tech equipment. Our staff has to be constantly trained to respond to the increasing expectations of customers, stakeholders and the ever important relationship with other stakeholders.

The strategies adopted are not designed for a specific period of time. Ongoing processes for globalization, advanced technology and even mindset of customers are challenges which call for continuous improvement. Even up to date, the counters which have been set up, the speed and efficiency of the staff, the accuracy of advice and information given have all resulted in enhancing service delivery and in bringing customers’ satisfaction to the highest level.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The Companies Division is the sole organisation in Mauritius where information regarding companies, businesses and partnerships is kept officially. Over the years, the Division has re-engineered its organisation to simplify the steps leading to the development and implementation of the strategies it has devised.

In 2001, the Companies Division implemented a new Companies Act, a flexible and modern piece of legislation. Strenuous efforts have been made to ensure that all users and potential users are aware of the law governing companies. Guidelines on implementing the law have been prepared and posted on the web.

In 2006, the Business Registration Act came into force. As part of the sensitisation campaign, officers of the Companies Division not only registered businesses at the main office but also assisted users in registering their businesses by setting up outpost offices. Thus, the Companies Division sent its officers across the country to register businesses.

In 2009, the Insolvency Act was proclaimed. This legislation came at an opportune time when global recession was affecting even the wealthiest economies. The Insolvency Service Unit was set up within the Companies Division to look after insolvency matters.

Since 2004, the newly computerised system of the Companies Division was overhauled to improve service delivery by identifying areas where existing systems were not conducive to an efficient service. Emphasis was therefore placed on service delivery through the use of advanced technology. The availability of on-line information as well as on-line transactions are now possible.

Recently, in August 2007, an outpost has been set up at Port Mathurin in Rodrigues, an island close to Mauritius, to enable the people in Rodrigues to register their companies and businesses without incurring additional travelling expenses. The unit provides them with the same services as delivered in Mauritius.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The Companies Division focuses on achieving work excellence – especially in connection with delivery of services. In so doing, continuous improvement has had to be brought about. Obstacles have had to be overcome and challenges to be faced.

As in most situations, people are resistant to changes and innovations, especially in the workplace. Our staff were no exception with the implementation of the new technology and the new way of interacting with the public. This led inevitably to a sense of frustration initially. Staff was made aware that focus should be first and foremost directed on the needs of the customers.

Funding is and has always been one of the major problems that the office encountered as expenditure for public funds needed to be accounted for. From the acquisition of simplest office equipment to the most sophisticated electronic tool and even to the recruitment of personnel, all expenditures have to go through tedious and sometimes time consuming procedures.

However, due to increasing expectations of the public who demands expediency and efficiency from the Companies Division, the Government has always made it a priority to release as expediently as possible the financing needed to enhance the delivery of our services. Besides Government is recognising that it needs to foster a public sector which is successful and productive in order to position Mauritius as a business friendly, highly competent and skilled jurisdiction.

Another problem encountered relates to the introduction of new legislation. The dissemination of new laws to staff and members of the public has not been an easy task. With proper training and explanation of the legal framework to the staff whose main duty was to advise and give information to customers, the problem has then been minimised to a great extent. Written notice in simple language free of legal jargon has been devised to assist the public. The name and contact number of the relevant staff for obtaining further information and advice is included in all correspondences with the public.

Significant efforts have also been made in recent years to improve accessibility to our services. These include broadening the delivery network, upgrading access requirement and co-locating many separate services under one roof. At the Companies Division, customers just have to call on the same floor for any service. In the past our public has had to run across several floors and desks to be able to gather the necessary information in order to have their transactions processed. Another aspect of access has now been introduced through the improvement of our electronic service. The Companies Division has its own website which provides company information search, updated legislation and the whole range of services offered. In order to encourage this new channel of services, there is an increased emphasis on improving the security, interactivity and simplicity of using online services.

Open communication and appropriate feedback mechanisms coupled with adequate distribution of resources, time, personnel, finances and technologies have indeed contributed to the improvement of our service delivery.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The improvement of service delivery in the Companies Division has always been an ongoing process. By adopting and putting the Principles of Public Service Delivery into practice, the Companies Division has used financial, technical and human resources efficiently to produce tangible results.

Funds were made available to the Companies Division after justification for same has been furnished to the parent ministry. The availability of funds made it possible to set up required counters, purchase equipment as technological tools facilitate individually crafted service packages, particularly through internet connections.

A code of conduct, giving guidance about the way the staff should behave towards the customers has been devised. Stakeholders with various backgrounds are at times invited to produce their views on ways and means of improving our service delivery. Customer Surveys and meetings with customer representative bodies have been carried out on a quite regular basis. The results have, of course, been taken into account as described previously. The staff of the Companies Division has made use of the outcomes of those surveys and meetings to set standards to all services offered. The standards set are precise and measurable, so that our customers can judge for themselves whether or not they are receiving what has been promised, e.g. by stipulating the length of time taken to incorporate a company or provide a copy of document filed at the office.

Service delivery and customer care have been included in public service training programmes and formal trainings are given to all those who deal directly with the public, whether face-to-face, in written correspondences or on the telephone. Our staffs are instructed about the standards of behaviour to be adopted and are informed that performance which falls below these standards would need to be reviewed. Equally important to formal training is the informal training which comes from the example set by management, and the day to day guidance that new staff receives from their more experienced colleagues. Management has the duty to ensure that the values of the Companies Division are in line with the Principles of Public Service Delivery of the Ministry for Civil Service Affairs and Administrative Reforms.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The Companies Division is the Grand Winner of the Excellent Counter Service Award for the year 2003, first of its kind organized by the government.

Following our recognition as a department providing excellent service to customers and other stakeholders, the services of the Office of the Registrar of Companies have been solicited on numerous occasions by various departments to share its knowledge and experience in the field of customer service.

The Civil Status Office was the first organisation to be provided with an overview of the measures that have been implemented to meet the needs of the public. The Police Department organised a forum where our achievements were brought to light. The Ministry of Women’s Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare also organised a similar workshop where the collaboration of the Registrar of Companies was called for.

Surprisingly, our reputation as an excellent service provider has gone further than our territorial limits. In fact, the office of the Registrar of Companies has been rather active in the region over the past years. In August 2003, our department welcomed delegations of fellow officers from Namibia and Botswana who were seeking advice and guidance for the implementation of their new computerized system.

Moreover, the Government of Rwanda has sought the advice of the Registrar of Companies on the setting up of its own registry.

Recently two delegations from the United Arab Emirates and the Government of Ghana undertook an information tour to appraise the various facilities processes afforded by the office. All this clearly demonstrates that our contribution to improve service delivery has been and hopefully will be a continued source of inspiration to other departments locally and internationally. The Registrar of Companies is regularly invited as guest speaker in many international forums on corporate matters. International institutions regard the Companies Division as a showcase on “Doing Business” and our model has inspired many jurisdictions.

The government of Malawi and Cameroon has recently invited the Registrar of Companies to advise on the Business Registration reforms and the one-stop shop concept respectively. These are clear evidences that our business models can be easily exported and adopted in other countries.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Generally speaking, the expectations of the Mauritian population in terms of prompt, efficient, effective and secure customer service are continually rising. People are asking for services to be accessible in a timely and convenient manner.

So measures have been implemented so as to provide our customers with services that are fair, equitable, correctly and lawfully delivered. Democracy, accountability, openness and transparency are values that are expected from the Companies Division. New training methods of the staff have been developed to refocus and enhance existing skill in managing relationship with customers.

Training on the various laws that are administered by the Companies Division was carried out by management. This has led to a better understanding of the laws. Through communication and various meetings, staff was made aware of the importance of good quality service. Customers have been given information which are easy to understand and with the minimum amount of ‘red tape’. The team spirit was strengthened at the same time, thus providing a prompt and efficient service to the customers’ satisfaction.

The Companies Division has extended its opening hours during weekdays to offer longer hours of service to the public locally and abroad. Clear indications are provided to guide the customers to the appropriate desks during peak periods. Additional cashiers are in place to avoid long queues.

Before the new measures were implemented, it was current practice that reminders were being sent to customers after the due date for fees to be levied. With the introduction of e-government platform a notice is being published on our website and is being sent to customers individually informing them that the fees would be due soon for them to arrange for payment at the earliest convenience.

Significant efforts have been made to improve accessibility. The one-stop shop policy has been created to bring together services to one stop front.
The quality of leadership that prevails within the Companies Division has given rise to a successful service delivery. Leadership is not just for developing policies, for setting up performance systems and reporting, but it rests on its capacity to build relationships, to address problem and to inspire a sense of purpose and direction and to establish and maintain productive working relationships among the staff, the customers, the stakeholders and the ever demanding relationship with ministries and departments.

The Companies Division is constantly keeping track of rapid changes in the business community worldwide while at the same time ensuring that it never loses track of the quality of its service delivery. Special emphasis is laid on the importance of delivery of service nowadays. There is still a great deal to do, and progress can sometimes be frustratingly slow; however, improving public service delivery is a task which is most worthwhile and rewarding. It is a process which involves all staff of the Companies Division, whether they work behind the scenes or directly with the public.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   COMPANIES DIVISION
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Telephone/ Fax:   208-4117/208-7263
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Postal Code:  
Country:   Mauritius

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