Legislators query Gov’t ability to register businesses online

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

With the proposed Online Registration bill tabled by the new ICT savvy Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Bogolo Kenewendo; many legislators are sceptical about the proficiency of government’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) system.

Minister Kenewendo had proposed to fellow law makers’ the Companies Re-Registration Bill of 2018 with one of the major reforms being  affording existing companies to migrate accurate and reliable data to a new online system through a seamless and conjoined process. In her presentation, Kenewendo said the proposed change would among others facilitate the development of the Online Business Registration Systems (OBRS) that aims to improve the overall efficiency in business registration.

Embedded in the highly anticipated Bill are provisions such as companies’ exemption from paying accumulated outstanding annual return fees during the transition period of the Bill. Further provisions suggest that the minister will have powers to make regulations that will supplement the provisions of the new system as he /she sees fit and as need arises.

Likewise, the bill comes after the approved ease of doing business reform in 2014. Kenewendo told parliament that the bill was part of a larger legal framework envisioned under the doing business road map. “The objective of the bill is to provide for the re-registration of existing companies under the companies act,” she said. Members of parliament showered the bill with praises saying that it was long overdue for Botswana Company and business registration processes to evolve and catch up with global times and international standards as well as procedures of doing things.

One outstanding member, the Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South Ndaba Gaolathe noted that the Bill provisions would effectively govern the migration of existing companies into digitalized framework saying that was a welcome move. He cited countries who have successfully put in place effective ease of doing business reforms and progressed to do well with wooing foreign capital including Rwanda and Mauritius. Gaolathe said this particular reform would restore investors and potential business people’s confidence.

Another contribution came from Member of Parliament for Sefhare–Ramokgonami who is also Minister responsible for permits and immigration issues Dorcus Makgatho who said migration from manual registration was the way to go as many countries who have long implemented the latter were realizing positive impact on ease of doing business and consequently significant contribution on economic growth.

That notwithstanding, some Members of Parliament are also unconvinced the government ICT system, which is synonymous with ‘being down’ will help the process. The legislators argue that digitization of processes such as registration of data comes with causalities and its own complications.

Takatokwane Lawmaker, Ngaka Ngaka has advised that the Online Business Registration System be developed in a manner that would make it easy for the public to do online business registration rather than complicating things even further. Sharing the same sentiments as Ngaka is Member of Parliament for Ghanzi North, Noah Salakae who expressed concern that the government Information Communications System (ICT) could hamper the effectiveness of OBRS should it not be upgraded.

“I think we should ask the Minister of Transport and Communications to inform us about the state or the readiness of our ICT system to take over this job,” asserted Salakae. Legislators also added to Salakae‘s views, saying that upgrading of the government ICT system to enable successful implementation of e-government across various government departments was vital to proper and effective realization of reforms such as this one.

Minister Kenewendo is known for her love of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and her advocacy in matters to do with the Internet of Things (IoT). She is Botswana’s youngest Member of Parliament she just turned 30 years old.

 

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