Until recently, the last time I had walked into the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) head offices, the layout of the place and mode of service delivery were symptomatic of what we knew Government to be then. Every form and activity meant to aid the registration of a company required taking multiple trips around the city. You went to the Uganda Bookshop to buy forms, had to locate a bank where to pay the fees from, among many other chores. This experience forced me and others to relegate that activity to middle men who knew their way around these matters.
My most recent trip however to the same office surprised the most cynical side of me. Walking into the One Stop Centre at Georgian House, I couldn’t help but make comparisons with the last time I went into a British Airways ticketing office. The level of orderliness was impeccable.
As a visitor, you have to know what you are there for specifically and this starts off by requesting a waiting ticket from a machine set up next to the entrance. By simply doing this, URSB eliminated the line fluking and jostling that was characteristic of the old days. Customers are treated with decency as they have a large enough sitting area to wait from before they are attended to.
Different services have different desk officers attending to customers right from name reservation, TIN application, Kampala City Council Authority tax payment, National Identification and Registration Authority all the way through to filing of tax returns. By separating these service desks, the consumer experience has undoubtedly become much better. I noticed less clutter at the individual workstations of the staff. The icing on the cake is the ability to carry out land searches from this very location as well as your Social Security Fund inquiries too.
This experience led me to dig deeper into the reforms that have taken place at this institution. A quick look up of the URSB Information guide opened up more surprises for me. I got to learn that with the right documentation in place, registration of;
A business name gets done in three working hours.
A company takes three working hours.
A foreign company takes three working hours.
These are very impressive timelines if I may compare with the weeks we had to wait for in times gone by, just to register a business. Personally, any government registration service that takes place in under 48 hours is already too good to be true. Something strangely impressive has happened over here. What makes matters even better is the ability to track the registration process online.
Some of the other less known services of URSB that I came to find out are;
Document certification, which takes only 30 minutes.
Intellectual Property. With the ever increasing awareness about the need to protect inventions and creations of all sorts, the URSB is in charge of registering copyrights, patents, trademarks, industrial designs and Geographical indicators.
Besides the vastly improved service delivery and new corporate outlook, URSB’s growth can be traced down to its contribution to non-tax revenue. Collections grew from UGX 5.7 Billion in 2010/2011 to UGX 39.9 Billion in 2017/18. From 2012, when the transition commenced, the organisation has cumulatively generated UGX 163.8 Billion until 2018. This is very commendable and a sign that a functional system is in place.
For now, all I can say is that some things are being done right in Uganda and URSB is just one of those institutions that we can stand up and be proud of. Thanks to the support from the Competitive & Enterprise Development Project.
James Wire is a Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda
Follow @wirejames on Twitter.
Email lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com