Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Situation at CIPC deteriorates: Time for a ministerial intervention

Situation at CIPC deteriorates: Time for a ministerial intervention
Tim Harris, DA Spokesperson on Trade & Industry
24 January 2012

Despite progress made in the middle of last year, the situation at the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) has deteriorated alarmingly in the past four months. The Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies must now intervene to fix the capacity and management problems at the Commission.

Last year CIPC reported that they had managed to reduce the transaction backlog from the 50 000 reported in June, to 6 700 in September. Now, unfortunately, the backlog has ballooned back to 19 000.

In July last year, the Minister committed to clearing the backlog by the end of August 2011. It’s now clear that the backlog is far from cleared, and the capacity and management problems at the Commission remain.

Furthermore, in May last year 72% of calls to the call centre were not picked up, but by August the situation had improved to the point that 53% of calls were not picked up. By November, however, the percentages of calls not picked up was back up to 71%.

The Companies Commissioner has said that the decline in terms of the backlog is due in part to “staff fatigue” and in part to “weaknesses at supervisory level”. This is unacceptable. In a country where hundreds of thousands of qualified young people are unable to find work, CIPC needs to hold their employees to account and replace those who don’t work with job seekers who will.

The Companies Commissioner has also said that she has changed her mind about outsourcing being the solution for the capacity problems at the call centre. It is difficult to see how this could be the case given the experience South African technology companies have in huge integration exercises, and the hundreds of thousands of skilled operators that call centres already employ.

It is ironic that Minister Davies has commissioned an inquiry into the chronically under-funded National Consumer Commission on the back of a trade union complaint, while incapacity at CIPC is doing real damage to South Africa’s reputation as a business destination. It is time for him to intervene in the Companies Commission to fix the capacity and management problems.

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