6 March 2014

Samoa Companies Registry celebrates first anniversary

By Sally Shute-Trembath

The online Companies Registry has plenty to celebrate on its first anniversary and is already improving the efficiency of conducting business in Samoa. Within its first year of operations, the registry saw a near doubling from 112 to 206 of new companies in Samoa. The time it takes to register a company online has also been reduced to around 1.5 business days. Users of the system have benefited from being able to access the registry 24 hours a day, seven days a week to view company information and use company administration services.
Registry users such as Sophie Hazelman, Sales and Marketing Manager of Samoa Scenic Tours, have found the registry very easy to use. “It is much easier than filling out lots of paperwork, and I find the automatic reminders that are emailed to our companies especially useful – it really helps us comply with our requirements under the law.”
‘Ease of use’ and ‘time-saving’ is the resounding feedback received by Government on the online Companies Registry, managed by the Ministry of Commerce, and funded by the Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI). The Samoa Companies Office offers continuous outreach to clients, to ensure their transition to an electronic system is seamless.
“Within one year of operations, we were able to bring most of our registered companies onto a fully online operation,” said Margaret Fruean, Assistant CEO of Ministry of Commerce. “We also provide live support and a kiosk at our offices in Apia and Savai’i to assist those who need more time to get used to the online system.”
Companies may update their details through the online system, rather than completing paper forms, making it easier for businesses to focus on their day-to-day activities, rather than on red tape. “It has made our life, and the life of our clients a lot easier,” said Arthur Penn, Partner of Lesa ma Penn accounting, who provides accounting and auditing services to over 100 companies in Samoa.
“We used to have to send staff down to the Companies Office to do searches, now they can do them from the office computers. Submitting annual returns is also much faster”.
The next steps towards streamlining company registration in Samoa will be the acceptance of electronic payments, by EFTPOS or mobile phone payments.
The Samoan Government, with the support of PSDI, is also taking steps to modernise payment systems. PSDI is a regional technical assistance facility co-financed by Australian Aid, the New Zealand Aid Programme, and Asian Development Bank.  “The Companies Registry is making it easier for local people to conduct business in Samoa,” said Andrea Iffland, Regional Director of ADB’s Pacific Liaison and Coordination Office in Australia.
“It has also significantly improved transparency as it ensures fair trading and consumer protection through appropriate regulation.” ADB is working closely with the Government of Samoa to help modernize business laws and increase access to finance opportunities.
The Companies Act reform work is part of PSDI, PSDI is supporting the efforts of ADB Pacific developing member countries to encourage private sector led, sustainable economic growth.

* The registry is available to the public at www.companies.gov.ws.