Twist and Turns of Registering Business in Ghana
It is required by law that any business venture undertaken in Ghana is properly registered and registration documents obtained at the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) in Accra. It is binding on both Ghanaians and foreigners who own business or want to operate. It is, however, interesting that there are quite considerable number of businesses in Ghana that have not been registered. This may be due to the complexity in the registration process and duplication roles not excluding ignorance a result of inadequate education.
The first step getting your business registered begins with obtaining Tax Identification number (TIN) at the offices of any Ghana Revenue Authority in your municipality or district or even at the Registrar General in Accra. The TIN application forms are free as well as the registration itself.
The next step is to purchase the business registration forms at the Registrar General, fill out properly and submit at the same place. The submitted forms go through vetting which involves searching for the name you want to give your business including checking to ensure information you have provided especially about the nature of your business and its location are correct.
The information on the submitted forms is entered into the system and the forms are scanned into the system as well. It is then submitted for approval. After the approval has been given, you now have the chance to make payment at the bank also located in the same building. After the payment, you would be issued with receipts. You would then submit the receipts and the registration forms at the reception of the RGD for your details to be recorded in a notebook. At this stage your copy of the receipt showing payment would be given to you as it is what you would use to follow-up and get your certificate. After your details have been recorded at the reception, you would send the forms back to the one who keyed your information into the system at the data entry/verification cubicle. At this point, you would be told when to come for your certificate.
That sounds simple, huh? Yes of course that is how simple it ought to be. But I tell you what; try it and would vow never to step there. I mean you would give up on registering your business. I must say that quite recently I was at the RGD and I have seen some improvements in their processes and procedures but there is still more to be done.
In my introduction, I pointed to some reasons why people find it difficult to register their business. The complexity in this context simply refers to that fact that, the information that a prospective businessman would have to provide especially on annual turnover has been a major problem. Since this determines the amount of tax to pay, many people are afraid to provide full disclosure of their actual turnover. More so, the way and manner people are tossed over from one cubicle to another to have one thing done is most frustrating and embarrassing. It appears those manning those cubicles do not know what they are about. As a result, they’re unable to take time to find out what the customer needs so that he/she could be helped out at one instance.
Due to the complex nature of registering a business as well the number of people who troop there to renew or register their business, people are forced to reach the offices of RGD to early enough to have their business done. But you would end up wasting the whole day their sometimes without being able to finish the business you came to do. While seated at the counter/cubicle hours upon hours waiting to be attended to, you would find that the seats over there are empty. It’s so disheartening to see some them report to work as early as 9 a.m. while you have been sitting there as late as 7 or 8 a.m. Perhaps you would ask me how I knew whether the person was just reporting to work. There way two ways to know: she carries all her bags and trudge in front of you into the cubicle. Two, approach the cubicle immediately she takes her seat and she would tell you, ‘I’m now turning on my machine.’ In any case, you need her service and not the other way round and so you have to get there very early and wait for her. This is the attitude of those working in the public/civil services. Government work is no man’s work.
One other thing I consider disincentive to registering of business is what I called duplication of role. I think business registration should be a one-off thing so long as it has been done at the RGD. But what is happening is that after one has registered his/her business at the RGD, he/she is still required to register same business or obtain license to operate business within the local authority the business is located. Why don’t we accept business registration certificate obtained at the RGD as a valid document and base on that charge whatever fee that is applicable by the local authority?
Last but not the least, I think public education on the need to register their business is not enough. People do not see the need or importance to register their business. I think more education has to be done in this regard.
All of these have given rise to the emergence of people acting as intermediaries (Goro boys) who have taken advantage of the situation to help out at a fee.
Some of us are also very critical of the kind of service we receive at some of these public departments. Customer service has been a very serious problem in Ghana. And you would find the worst of its kind especially at the RGD. The demeanour of most of the staff of RGD and the way they talk to customers is so appalling and very irritating. Most of them lack basic business language. All of these put together make the already frustrated customer all the more. It is required of every front liner who interfaces a lot with customers in an organisation, as customer service experts would say, to possess certain key vocabulary which many of the staff at the RGD unfortunately lack. Imagine you walking to a desk to have one thing done at RGD and being told ‘My link is not working.’ A well informed front line staff would go like, ‘I’m afraid my link is not working. Can you please have a seat while I work on it and attend to you?’ And if the help the customer needs has to do with document, the staff would take it and go through. This clearly shows the readiness on the part of the staff to help/serve the customer.
The world is moving fast and we must move along. We cannot continue to do things the old way. Business renewal can now done using mobile money services. All that matters is getting the renewal forms, filling it out with all the necessary information and submitting same. Payment is then effected from the phone. There is no need having to join long queues. I understand business registration can equally be done online but how effective and efficient is that? I know in Ghana, some of these sites take a lot of time to upload and open.
Innovation is what is driving businesses and the world at large today. Let’s start it now!