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E-governance is but a milestone towards good governance
October, 05th 2006
MCA21 has brought the Ministry of Company Affairs to the doorsteps of the professional community. MR TANMOY CHAKRABARTY, VICE-PRESIDENT AND HEAD (GLOBAL GOVERNMENT INDUSTRY GROUP), TCS Anytime and anywhere services to businesses. That's what the MCA21 initiative of the Ministry of Company Affairs (MCA) envisions. "The first mission mode e-governance project being undertaken in the country," informs, the site of the Ministry. MCA21 automates "processes related to the proactive enforcement and compliance of the legal requirements under the Companies Act, 1956," and e-filing has already become mandatory. Asia's largest software IT services and consulting company that partnered with the Ministry in this major programme, for the end-to-end implementation on a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) model over the period till 2012, is TCS (Tata Consultancy Services). Meet Mr Tanmoy Chakrabarty, Vice-President and Head (Global Government Industry Group) of TCS, who takes on a few questions from Business Line. Excerpts from the interview: What is the current status of MCA21 in terms of level of implementation? The MCA21 programme has been rolled out to all RoC (Registrar of Companies) locations, numbering 20 across India. And 48 Registrar Front Offices have been established across India to facilitate filing for the stakeholders. All services of the RoC offices, Regional Directorate offices and Ministry of Company Affairs are now available online through the portal. The portal gets an average of 3.5 million hits a day, making it one of the most popular government portals. How far have companies complied with the new scheme? About 3.5 lakh filings have been made till date by about 2 lakh companies, and the Ministry is available to the stakeholders anywhere and anytime on a 24x7 basis. The Ministry has mandated e-filing for all companies from September 18 onwards with the use of Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) by the authorised signatories of the companies and all filings now are being done with digital signatures of authorised signatories. Do you see any perceptible impact of MCA21 to date be it in reduction of compliance hassles, time spent in filing, or work at the Department? Significant. The objective of the MCA21 programme is to bring about a holistic, enterprise-wide transformation, including the customer service experience and streamlining of internal processes of the Ministry. This is being achieved at present. In fact stakeholders can do all filing in electronic mode through the Internet by filing the forms along with various attachments, and affixing their digital signature. Additionally, the payment for various statutory fees can be done through electronic payment mode, through credit card or Internet banking. Besides this, the concept of straight-through processing has been implemented for annual return forms filed w.e.f. September 18, by which these filings are taken directly into record without any manual RoC intervention. This will allow the RoC officials to focus on approval of business critical forms, such as name approval, incorporation, charge registration and others. What have been the major hurdles to the smooth progress of the project? The biggest challenge was e-filing, whicheliminates the physical interface. More than 100 awareness sessions were conducted at approximately 40 cities across India, with one-to-one interaction of the TCS team in collaboration with key stakeholders such as company secretaries, chartered accountants, and cost and works accountants. Does the software provide for scaling up? If so, to what extent? Yes. The volumes being processed by the system have gradually increased as various RoC offices have switched to e-filing progressively. We encountered a mini peak before the DSC mandate, when about four times the normal load was successfully processed. The system and architecture are designed to cater to high loads. The annual filing season is expected from October end onwards. Special arrangements are being made to cater to this, both through the online mode and also through the introduction of additional facilitation centres (Temporary Front Offices) in about 10 cities. Electronically filed documents are also required to be filed in paper form. Is the duplication a temporary phenomenon, at least till confidence is achieved? When the project went live on February 18 on pilot basis in Coimbatore, the Ministry had allowed for physical filing which was converted to electronic filing at the various facilitation centres to allow the stakeholders get used to the new mode. The Ministry has mandated from September 16 that all filings for companies under the Companies Act, 1956 must be done with the Registrar's office only in an electronic form, using the DSC of the company's authorised signatory. All transactions with the Registrar's office will be in electronic mode. The only exception being documents that require stamp paper as of now, these need to be filed both in the scanned and physical forms. We are working with the Ministry to make these stamp paper documents also fully electronic and, sometime early next year, we plan to introduce this feature. This will make all interaction with the Ministry fully electronic. Can shareholders and the common public access electronically filed company documents? If yes, what is the procedure, and is there a fee for the same? Yes. It is one of the most popular features of the portal ( Anyone can view the company master data without any fee. Further, a facility has been provided under View Public Documents, through which a user can view any public document of a company registered anywhere in India online, on payment of the requisite fees. The inspection of a public document is allowed online for three hours from the time the request is activated on payment of Rs 50. This facility has significant advantages over the manual system, as the users are not required to physically travel to the office of the RoC and inspect the documents. What new MIS reports have been made possible in the Ministry of Company Affairs as a consequence of MCA21? Once e-filing has been successfully processed by the MCA21 system, all data is extracted into an MCA corporate database. This database will serve as the base for various analysis and MIS reports for the Ministry this will be done on a continuous basis. Has there been a cost/time overrun in this project? How much manpower was deployed for it in terms of man-years? TCS rolled out the MCA21 programme in all locations in 78 weeks. More than 600 associates worked on the project, with 300 of them in the customer-centric role. This pioneering programme of the Government has been completed in time and within the budget. Is TCS working on a similar e-governance initiative elsewhere? What are the takeaways for TCS from MCA21? TCS is working extensively with several Central and State government e-governance initiatives and is seriously committed to the new initiatives emerging under the National e-Governance Plan (NEGP). TCS is proactively positioning its frameworks, which bring about transformation in governance through enterprise-wide technology deployment with several governments as well. The key takeaways for TCS during development and deployment of the MCA21 programme include the need for a governance domain cum technology team structure in the client side as well as countering some unforeseen dependencies beyond the Ministry that had to be interfaced into the programme. In future, pre-emptive and proactive steps would need to taken as a lesson from this experience. Will it be necessary to amend forms to make them amenable for MCA21? All the 61 MCA forms have been adapted for electronic filing. They have been simplified and redesigned for ease of use, eliminating redundant information through business process reengineering (BPR). Also, a mechanism for automated electronic pre-scrutiny of these forms has been introduced, which can help reduce the errors routinely encountered in the form filling process. Further optimisation will be undertaken as an ongoing process based on stakeholder feedback and changes as they happen. On the new professional/ job opportunities that MCA21 has opened. Certified Filing Centres (CFCs) has been framed by the Ministry of Company Affairs. Under this scheme, professionals in practice belonging to the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI), Institute of Chartered Accounts of India (ICAI) and Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India (ICWAI) and the body corporates managed by the professionals were provided an opportunity to set up and operate the CFCs. Already 370 CFCs have been provided user ids and logins to facilitate e-filing through the portal across India. The details of the same can be fetched from the CFC corner of the homepage of the portal. In fact, this brings the Ministry to the doorsteps of the professional community. Are we in a position to offer a similar solution globally? Would you call the project a service/product delivery of TCS? Is there a possibility that India caters to outsourced e-governance? Or, is it happening already? This is the biggest BOOT and service-delivery-oriented programme of the Government and TCS is proud to be involved in this pioneering programme. The approach and the business model for this engagement is relevant today, where e-governance is but a milestone towards good governance and where for the first time the focus is on outcomes and not on input. D. Murali
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