THE government has embarked on a number of initiatives aimed at accelerating the ease of doing business, a key factor which multinationals consider when making their investment decisions.

The World Bank ranks South Africa 39th out of 185 countries in terms of the ease of doing business, compared to last year’s ranking of 41. The government now wants to see further improvements.

The Department of Trade and Industry is involved in two projects to achieve this aim. One intends creating harmonised national norms and standards for licensing of businesses by municipalities. The other entails creating a single registry for the submission of data required by different organs of the state such as the South African Revenue Service, Statistics South Africa and the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission.

The department’s deputy director-general, Zodwa Ntuli, last week said these entities were participating in a task team which included the Presidency and the Treasury. The team is working on a single platform for the submission of data so that once it was submitted to one institution, it could be shared by all.

Also, the companies commission has made great strides in overcoming the problems that raised a business outcry last year. The reputations of the commission and its predecessor, the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office, have suffered setbacks in the past.

The challenges included long delays in finalising company registrations and the fraudulent manipulation of its database to change the ownership and directorships of companies. Speedy company registration is regarded as one of the important factors which determine how a country ranks in terms of ease of doing business.

Companies commissioner Astrid Ludin said the turnaround time for online company registration was now between three to five days. If the manual registrations were included, the average period was between 12 and 19 days.

With regard to co-operatives, 68% were registered within the stipulated timeframe of 15 days.

Ms Ludin said there was high demand for online services, with 66% of all applications for company registrations in the first two quarters being done electronically. This compared with Sweden’s 25%.

By April, the commission would be geared up for the fully electronic lodging of intellectual property applications.

Ms Ludin said 19 audits had concluded that with regard to turnaround times the commission was performing in line with or even better than the set service delivery standards.

New company registrations were expected to exceed 200,000 this year.

But Ms Ludin said there were still challenges with the call centre as a result of the lack of capacity to handle high call volumes. Last month, only 30% of calls received were answered.