A TOP official in the Department of Trade and Industry has vowed to fix delays at the Companies and Intellectual Registration Office (Cipro) that companies complain are crippling their ability to do business.
DTI director-general Tshediso Matona said he was keeping a close eye on the troubled Cipro, which has been plagued by computer failures and fraud allegations.
"My priority is a speedy resolution of all the controversies, to take action against anybody that warrants action and to restore public confidence," Matona said.
"Cipro is about service delivery. It has such an important function in the economy."
The SA Institute of Chartered Accounts said at the weekend that the business sector was being "strangled" by IT problems and inefficiency at Cipro that began in October and have since snowballed.
Ewald Müller, a senior executive at the institute, said the paralysis at the state agency "threatens the economy on several fronts, most notably in the inability of companies and close corporations to continue operating within corporate legislation".
Cipro chief executive Keith Sendwe was admitted to hospital in mid-January and is indefinitely on sick leave.
Other executives have been suspended pending a report by the auditor-general into a R153 million IT contract the agency awarded last year.
Economist Mike Schussler said it was impossible to quantify the impact the crisis at Cipro has on the economy, but said "the knock-on effect is huge".
"If you can't register, you can't do business."
Accountants say important deals have collapsed and bank overdrafts have been cancelled because companies have been unable to process regulatory requirements through Cipro.
Cipro acknowledged last week that its website's "major downtimes" had caused much frustration.
It said it had made additional resources available to assist walk-in customers and staff were working overtime to try to clear the backlogs.