Mr. Ganesh Wijenayake, Consulting Project Manager, eRoC Project has sent in the following response to the article under the above heading published last week in the Business Times:   The Registrar of Companies (RoC) took pride in announcing a highly successful e initiative to become the first ever Government paperless office that functioned during COVID-19 restrictions [...]

Business Times

‘‘Sri Lanka e-ROC becomes defective worrying companies’’

Right of Reply

Mr. Ganesh Wijenayake, Consulting Project Manager, eRoC Project has sent in the following response to the article under the above heading published last week in the Business Times:  

The Registrar of Companies (RoC) took pride in announcing a highly successful e initiative to become the first ever Government paperless office that functioned during COVID-19 restrictions and earned over Rs. 1.1 billion through the system for the past several months as the revenue to the Government with over 200,000 applications being processed through the system for the same period. These real figures alone can demonstrate the success and the supremacy of the system. During the first COVID-19 lockdown period through the eRoC System it has incorporated 604 in March, 120 in April, 691 in May and 1252 in June 2020 companies and issued certified copies of required forms with an online verification of the issued certificates.

The RoC re-initiated the project in early 2017, to automate its process, code-named “eRoC Project”. It was to launch the project in stages. Accordingly, the name reservation and incorporation process went live on April 2, 2018 with two knowledge transfer sessions to company secretaries. By going live, clients of the eRoC system could login to the site from anywhere in the world to incorporate a company within a day, if all prerequisites are fulfilled. In addition, the department officials could login to the system from anywhere in the world to action the requests made by clients at any time.

This was a remarkable milestone of the project, which was the only contributor in that year for improving of the Ease of Doing Business Index. However, like in any automation process eRoC also had few teething issues at the beginning and as of today zero complaints on name reservation and company incorporation.

Obviously, with any process automation project, we have to anticipate resistance to the change, especially from those who are not competent enough to read and understand a user guide to fulfil the tasks. This system in not mainly for the public but targeted user groups are qualified Company Secretaries and the Directors of a Sri Lankan Companies. By introducing this system, many intermediates have been isolated from working with company files and many complaints have been received.

This software was developed and commissioned at a cost of Rs. 36 million locally. In addition, three years of support and maintenance is to be paid monthly from the date of handover of the system to RoC amounting to Rs. 21 million. The closest international bid was Rs.150 million at the time of procurement of the eRoC project. Audit queries in the Government sector are so common and it is not an offence to get one. But the department has successfully replied to all queries raised by the audit department and upon any baseless complain audit department will have to raise queries and examine whether there were any violations
of AR & FR.

With the introduction of the eRoC project and going live with all iterations, the department has moved from a totally manual paper based filing system to 100 percent paperless office with all online real-time functionalities and processors of both frontend and the backend being browser based enabling all users and officers to use the system from anywhere anytime with the use of an Internet connectivity. By moving from a manual system to a comprehensive computerised System Department has eliminated many malpractices and irregular activities that has been practiced due to complications of the manual systems. With the introduction of the online system all the manual filing has been stopped completely. This has been communicated to all secretaries through the 2 workshops conducted free of charge at the RoC premises before the system went live. And another 2 workshops were conducted just after the pandemic restrictions were lifted. Fair amount of knowledge was transferred to Secretaries during these workshops and comprehensive easy to use user guides are available online.

The RoC has closely worked with ICTA and the vendor to effectively overcome barricades both technical and human. There were few sabotage attempts by few elements but they have been successfully overcome in a collaborative manner. The absence of previous information and accuracy of the information after extracting the soft form was one of the major challenges, which has been successfully managed.

It is true that some elements have made complaints and sent unnamed petitions to top Government institutes and departments raising unfair and invalid concerns because they have not understood the benefits of this automation processors or lost revenue by dishonest activities.

There has been a last minute rush in connecting the companies to the Secretaries. RoC has communicated to the Secretaries not to wait till the last moment to connect their companies to Secretaries dashboard and paper notices were published in all 3 languages and published in the RoC website requesting to submit the lists to RoC for connecting companies. Few waited till the last moment and had faced delays since the data entry process with confirming the accuracy of data has taken time. However, considering these practical issues, RoC has waived off penalties in some of the genuine requests made by the Secretaries.

It is very hard to believe that some of the investors have closed down their ventures or operation because of the eRoC System. The system cannot be blamed for various other issues and regulatory issues.

If the Business Times can reveal a name of a Japanese company (as cited in the article) that has not received the expected service within expected timeframes, please let us know as the system has all data relevant to any incident. There could be user errors and resubmission requests which delays any process due to incompleteness or errors in the data provided by the user.

The system is designed in such a way that the user could not move forward to the next page to enter data if the data of mandatory fields are correctly filled. This is a system feature and not a bug. This has been explained in the user manuals, which are freely available in the site.

It is worth mentioning that there are errors in electronic payment gateways mainly due to losing connectivity between the payment gateway and the system. As per the records, there are less than 0.02 percent of failures of transactions. Secretaries are informed and warned about this.

The project faces severe resistance which has been successfully overcame. In addition, this was a common complain received by an identified couple of people who has written to various state institutions including Presidential Secretariat, AG’s Department, Auditor General etc. We are ready to face any challenge of this nature, if they come up with actual facts and figures.

Initiatives of this magnitude always face many obstacles due to various valid and not valid reasons. Some are purely on promoting negativity of a successful project. Therefore, it is very important to understand constructive criticism and destructive criticism with hidden agendas. It is the duty of the project management team to absorb all sorts of criticism and move positively forward towards national development whilst paying attention and taking all preventive measures for a smoother operation.

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