Chief Executive's Message
"Our aim is to promote a trusted and vibrant environment in Singapore where businesses will thrive, with fair and transparent capital markets, supported by a strong, responsive corporate regulatory framework."
2017 was a significant year for ACRA. We took stock of what we did and changes in the business environment, and reviewed our strategic plans. Our aim is to promote a trusted and vibrant environment in Singapore where businesses thrive, with fair and transparent capital markets, supported by a strong, responsive corporate regulatory framework.
We have embarked on several initiatives with other agencies to make it easy for businesses to deal with us. Businesses can look forward to seamless and integrated services, and a more consistent experience across government agencies in the coming years.
Work has started on making the corporate data lodged with ACRA easily accessible through Application Programming Interfaces so that the public and business community can create business value from them. We will also improve the accuracy of data in our registry to boost investor and consumer trust and confidence, and adopt a data-driven and intelligence-led enforcement approach for better regulatory outcomes.
Ensuring Singapore Remains the Best Place To Do Business
New initiatives were introduced in 2017 to boost Singapore's value proposition as an efficient business hub known for its ease of doing business. To reduce compliance burden, we simplified the annual return filing process significantly for about 150,000 exempt private companies.
We started to issue free business profiles containing essential information about their business when businesses register with us or when they file their annual returns. These profiles verify their corporate and financial status and facilitate their dealings with clients. We added to our suite of one-stop business registration services by enabling businesses to apply online for Workmen Injury Compensation Insurance. We will be undertaking a study to fundamentally review the design of our online business registration and filing portal, so as to leverage new enabling technologies and enhance user experience.
We will continue to review our policies and simplify our rules to meet the needs of the business community, and make it easy for them to start and grow in Singapore.
Upholding Strong Market Confidence
To address growing global concerns on money laundering and terrorism financing risks, new regulatory measures were introduced while others were tightened, to enhance corporate transparency and governance, and reduce opportunities for misuse of corporate entities for illicit purposes.
We refined the guidelines on customer due diligence measures for corporate service providers that are registered as filing agents with ACRA, as well as commenced checks on public accountants to ensure that they comply with measures to counter money laundering and terrorism financing.
To drive voluntary compliance, we launched an online training portal in June 2017. We now offer the Directors Compliance Programme as an online module for directors who have failed to comply with their filing requirements for the first time. These directors undergo the programme in lieu of prosecution. To enhance market transparency, we have started adopting a "re-statement first" approach where companies whose financial statements were reviewed by ACRA take voluntary action to remediate the financial reporting gaps highlighted. The aim is to ensure that companies rectify misstatements on a timely basis and communicate these promptly for the benefit of investors.
2017 also saw some encouraging improvement in audit quality. The proportion of audit inspections for non-listed companies with at least one finding has reduced by 15%. More public accountants are taking steps to address recurring audit deficiencies by addressing root causes and developing effective action plans.
In the coming year, we will be reviewing the existing regulatory regime for public accountants with a view to further strengthen it.
Providing Excellent Service
Customers are at the centre of what we do. We consulted and took into consideration customers' feedback and suggestions in the redesign of our BizFile+ user interface to improve user experience. We also launched a virtual assistant, "Ask Jamie @ ACRA", on our website to provide customers with a 24/7 channel for quick answers to simple questions on business registration. More than 163,000 customers used the virtual assistant between September 2017 and March 2018, which helped to reduce the volume of enquiries by 15%.
In response to customers' feedback, a Special Unique Entity Number service was introduced in February 2018 to give businesses the option to choose and purchase their preferred unique entity number.
We value our staff highly and are committed to their learning and development. To prepare our officers for jobs of the future, we have developed a training roadmap to guide the training of our officers in new core job competencies. In 2017, our staff attended foundational data analytics programmes and design thinking courses. More advanced training programmes will be rolled out in the coming year.
We have started to use digital tools, like Robotic Process Automation to streamline our internal processes, and data analytics to help us make policy decisions and business process changes.
We will enhance organisational capabilities and improve our workforce competencies so that we can continue to deliver results and contribute effectively as a team.
It would not have been possible to implement these initiatives and achieve our objectives without the strong support of the wider public and key stakeholders like the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, Singapore Institute of Directors, Chartered Secretaries Institute of Singapore and Singapore Investors Association of Singapore. They have provided invaluable feedback on our service initiatives and plans to improve our regulatory frameworks. We will continue to engage and work with them to develop better solutions together.
I would also like to thank the Board and our stakeholders for their unwavering support, and to all ACRA colleagues for their dedication and commitment.
MR ONG KHIAW HONG