The Government of Nepal has been committed to making starting a business easier for the entrepreneurs in the country. The World Bank Group has been a trusted advisor to the government on business registration reform since December 2010. In a fragile environment where reforms are hard to initiate and implement, such partnership has opened doors for further reforms.
Following a set of recommendations prepared by the investment climate team of the World Bank Group in December 2012, the Ministry of Industry officially inaugurated new e-services for the Office of the Company Registrar (OCR) on February 7, 2013.The launch signifies enhanced transparency and greater accountability of service delivery at the OCR. This reform is setting an example on promoting good governance throughout the country.
Providing government services using innovative technology
The new online registration system brings several benefits to the business registration process:
- Computerized registry: The host of e-services allows aspiring entrepreneurs to check available company names, reserve available names, and e-file a company registration application. Already registered companies can use the system to view company profiles, e-file company documents, and access tools such a fine calculator.
- Streamlined document processing: The new system has reduced internal procedures at the OCR, from 15 to 7 steps for company registration and from 13 to 9 steps for post registration.
- Integration of business and tax registration: The new system allows for interoperability and data sharing between two government agencies, the OCR and the Inland Revenue Department. Such interoperability is groundbreaking in Nepal and can be replicated in other agencies. The World Bank Group’s regional investment climate team facilitated among all the stakeholders to make this happen.
- Development of a user guide: A user guide was developed to walk entrepreneurs through the company registration process.
- Collection of gender information: The online registration form has a gender field to capture data on the gender of the business shareholders. The system allows the OCR database to break out data by gender of the business shareholder.
OCR issued a legal directive to ensure that a strong legal framework supports the new streamlined registration process. This directive was formed after a series of consultations with different stakeholders including the private sector.
OCR has also undergone a change management process and adapted the roles and responsibilities of its staff to the new streamlined process. OCR has trained its entire staff and also developed various manuals to guide the staff.
Promoting female entrepreneurs
Gender inclusion is another important aspect of the new online registration system. With the collection and disaggregation of data by gender now possible, OCR will be able to analyze the data and explore opportunities to encourage female entrepreneurs to register.
Chhaya Sharma, President of the Federation of Women Entrepreneur Association of Nepal, viewed this development favorably: "Offering online services is indeed a commendable step taken by the Office of the Company Registrar.” She added: “We look forward to the benefits generated by this initiative particularly towards women entrepreneurship development."
Opening doors for further reforms in investment climate
The entire reform process was the culmination of a long-term partnership between the OCR and IFC, working together through a challenging environment since 2010.
OCR taking on the change management process and committing to implementing the new automated system have prompted the Department of Industry and the Department of Commerce and Supply Management to also undertake similar reforms on business registration and growth. The project is a demonstration case for other agencies to implement technology led reforms.
“We are happy to hear that the automation initiative at OCR can help reduce business costs, save time and promote transparency,” said Kul Prasad Pandey, Deputy Director of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “We appreciate this customer-oriented approach of the government institution. Similar services should be expanded in other government institutions.”
With the new registration system implemented, Nepal can now expect this reform to be captured in the upcoming Doing Business report to be published later this year for the “Starting of a Business” indicator.