CEO INTERVIEW CAC has reduced business registration filing fees by 50% – Mahmud
Mr. Bello Mahmud is the Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). In this exclusive interview with the he says the commission has reduced business registration filing fees by 50 per cent.
You have been in office for about eight years. What do you consider your key achievements?
Like you said, I have been here for long. Initially, I was employed as a director and I worked under the former Registrar General for eight years. I took over from him after he left in 2009. From 2009 to date, which is about eight years, by my appointment letter, I’m supposed to leave in October at the expiration of my tenure. Initially, I was appointed for four years and it was renewed in 2003 for another four years, which will finish mid-October this year. The major achievements I can talk about now are in the area of operations. During my tenure, I have been able to decentralise CAC and we have some centres that can start and finish registration. We have another office here in Abuja in Wuse Zone 5. We have two offices in Lagos. We also have an office in Enugu and Port Harcourt. In the North, we have one in Kaduna and one in Kano. In all these offices, you can start and finish your incorporation without having to come to the head office. This is possible through our ICT infrastructure, that is the network that we are connected to them. We are connected to these offices through fibre optics and with that they can send documents to us online and they are able to download the certificates there also, seal it and give it to customers. In the course of these assignments, we have been able to develop Company Registration Regulations 2012. Previously, there were no regulations. We only had the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) that was the law. We now have regulations whereby customers know what to expect from CAC unlike before whereby you depend on the person who is on the desk to tell you what is going to happen. Now, what will happen is known to everybody. These regulations are now on our website where everybody can be able to see them.
What other achievements have you recorded so far?
We have also been able to reduce our cost of filling by 50 per cent for some companies. That is, the 50 per cent in filling fees is for registration of a company from N1m to N5m and those above N5m have a reduction of N25 per cent. We have now provided what is called public search window, which is free of charge. If you want to find out if a company is registered, you can go to our website and through that window, you can search and find out if the company is registered. If you want to register a company and you want to find out if that name is available for registration, you can also use that window. Now you can find out if a name is available for registration at no cost. We have also condensed our forms. Before, we had more than 10 forms. We reduced them to five. Now, we have further reduced them to one. We are now using a single form for registration and that has made it easier for our customers. We have deployed a new Company Registration Portal (CRP).
What are some challenges you have been faced with?
The apathy customers, of some especially lawyers to go online has been a major challenge. There is even lack of knowledge from them on how to use the computer. There is also the challenge of low revenue. You know we don’t receive money from the government. What we normally use is what we receive here as our revenue. And even from that, the government is interested in getting something out of it at the end of the year. The reduction of fees, as I told you earlier, also affected our revenues. We lose N3 billion per annum because of that reduction. Last year, we had low revenue because of economic meltdown in the country. We were able to make only half of what was projected. Last year, we projected about N15 billion as revenue, but what we received was only about N8.5 billion. We had to manage and pay our staff and other things. We are paying about 80 to 85 per cent revenue as staff salaries and allowances; what is left is just 15 per cent to take care of other things.
What led to the recent industrial action in the commission?
This crisis started because of the problem we had with the Salaries and Wages Commission in 2010. In 2010, salaries were increased by the government by about 53 per cent for public service and we in the Commission had to negotiate with our staff. The non-executives agreed to take 35 per cent increment while management agreed to take 15 per cent increment. Because the Board approved this review, we started paying. Along the line, the Salaries and Wages Commission came, inspected our books and said we were paying illegal salaries because they were not approved by them. We were asked to stop and apply for approval from them. We stopped and applied for approval. When the approval came, it was 35 and 15 per cent, it came with 26.6 per cent approval across the board, which meant that everybody got the same increment of 26.6 per cent. What the staff agreed to take was 35 per cent and what the management agreed to take was 15 per cent, which meant that the staff lost about 9 per cent when the approval came and the management got an increase of about 11 per cent. That brought the crisis.
Has the crisis been resolved?
Since that time we have been managing the crisis. We appealed to them always. We applied to the Salaries and Wages Commission more than five times pleading for them to approve this 35 per cent. As long as we are concerned, we can pay. But they always said they could not approve it because that was what they gave every parastatal. That was why the problem lingered up till now. Up till today, they have not approved it. What we said was for us to look at other areas that we could use to take care of the shortfall. We have agreed to take the area of pension. We have now taken over their pension contribution. Before they were contributing to pension but we have now taken over. We pay all for the staff. And about their arrears, 2014 to date, we said we would also look at other ways of paying that. We are going to take care of it in next year’s budget. That was how we resolved the problem.
The Union accused your management of corruption with specific mention of contract inflations. What is your take on their allegations?
That is very untrue. Like I have been saying, our contracts go through due process and all the figures they are giving are false figures. They are saying we spent N300 million to do a lift, which is not true. They are saying we spent N1 billion to build a car park, which is not true. All the figures are there. They are saying we spent N300 million to build an office in Katsina. That office did not even take up to N40 million. They said we are spending N2 billion on ICTs every year, which is not true. Where do we have N2 billion to spend on ICTs if we spend 85 per cent of what we generate to pay their salaries and allowances? What we are paying for ICTs is lower than what we were paying before for ICTs. Before, we were paying N140 million per annum for the old programme as annual maintenance fee. We are paying now about 65 million to the present people which is functioning better than the former one.