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ROCs registering change
December, 25th 2006

For the first time, corporate India had a user-friendly experience at the peak annual-returns-filing season this year-end, say chartered accountants who work with top corporates.

Thats because the 20 registrars of companies (RoCs) across the countrythe interface between the state and business housesstarted undergoing a surprising metamorphosis this year. From a temperamental regulator burdened with tasks beyond its resources to a fully paperless service provider all set to give a pleasant experience to corporates.

The difficulty in managing truck-loads of documents, which earlier afforded a pretext to the inefficient to skip their duties and the corrupt to manipulate records has been done away with under a massive e-governance project.

On September 16, it become mandatory for corporates to file all statutory documents like financial statements and compliance certificates online. Besides the ease to file records, the most important change is that officials have been stripped of any flexibility to work around the rules.

The system is programmed not to accept anything that is not in sync with the rules. The new regulator reflects the underlying philosophy of economic reforms. Wealth creation is no more a sin and regulators need not act too pricey. While being a transparent and accountable regulator, their job is also to provide professional services to entrepreneurs.

That is an impressive beginning. But enforcement of compliance is still a big challenge. RoCs, who are empowered to inspect the premises of companies and scrutinise their records, have not been able to cover even a small fraction of the corporate sector yet. That, despite the fact that only about a half of the more than seven lakh registered companies are functional.

When the UPA government took over, the number of inspections carried out by RoCs a year was just 200. Although it has gone up noticeably since then, inspections now do not cover even a per cent of the industry, which itself would run into a few thousand companies.

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