The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, (ACRA) announce new initiatives
13 Jul

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, (ACRA) announce new initiatives

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, (ACRA) has announced a number of new initiatives. These are all part of their ongoing focus to provide a responsive and trusted regulatory environment for businesses, public accountants and corporate service providers and make Singapore the best and trusted place for doing business. The services recently announced include:-

The Directors Compliance Programme (DCP): On-line training for Company Directors.

This training is designed for directors who failed to comply with annual return requirements, as required by the Company’s Act. The Directors’ Compliance Programme (DCP) is available online. This includes the topic, “Director Duties and Corporate Governance”. Participants can login whenever they wish to use ACRA’s e-training portal. The service provides video clips, quizzes and case studies. Further training modules are planned, including guidance for newly appointed directors.

Free copies for companies of their Business Profiles.

Under the banner “Adding Value for Businesses”, ACRA will provide recently registered or incorporated companies with a free copy of their Business Profile, once they have successfully completed the registration or incorporation process.

Note: Existing business entities registered with ACRA will also receive a free copy of their Business Profile but must renew their business registration or file their Annual Returns or Annual Declarations.

New public portal to research data on registered businesses.

The public can now access more business information covering over 500,000 business entities, who are registered with ACRA. This is via the Entity Search function in ACRA’s BizFile+ portal. Information can be found on business activity (SSIC), filing history, validity of the registered business address together with an online map to locate the business.

Help for future change – Singapore Accountancy and Audit Convention 2017.

Audit Firms can receive valuable information and “Be Future Ready” by registering for the Singapore Accountancy and Audit Convention 2017 (3 Oct 2017) –

The programme indicates that Public accountants will find a dedicated conference track. Topics will include inspection findings from ACRA’s Practice Monitoring Programme and in-depth discussions on the pitfalls of key inspection findings. Industry experts will also shed light on how audit firms can be future-ready by harnessing digital technology to improve practice efficiency.

New free public access for ACRA’s Open Data Initiative.

The public can now access useful business datasets from ACRA’s public register of business entities at This is the Government’s one-stop portal for open and free data.

There are over 1.5 million records covering live and non-live entities that are registered with ACRA. Records are available in machine-readable format and are updated every month. Access is free, and allows researchers and app developers to analyse the information and develop useful businesses applications.

Employment Pass for Singapore – new guidelines – FocusCore can help you.
19 Apr

Employment Pass for Singapore – new guidelines – FocusCore can help you.

It is no secret that you need an Employment Pass EP to work in Singapore. But the guidelines leading to receipt of an EP are to change. It is important you take note, remain informed and obtain the best advice. FocusCore is here to help you. If you are looking to apply for or renew an employment pass contact our immigration team today.

The grouping of higher than expected numbers of passes in certain sectors has spurred the Government to make some changes. The Minister for Manpower, Mr.Lim Swee, published statements recently on changes for the application procedures. These will now include more filters to prevent a too concentrated EP allocation within some companies that he sees as “highly undesirable”. The key driver is the ratio of national to foreign staff numbers. So, qualifications, salary and experience are not the only components to obtaining a pass. There is an overall assessment related to the social and economic implications for Singapore.

The TAFEP, Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices that is also tasked with monitoring this evolution is reported to be contacting 100 companies with EP holding staff, which total more than 50 percent of the company headcount. A bad mark for a company. This could result in passes not being renewed. Already the allocation of passes has seen a significant decline over the last 5 years.

We in FocusCore have national and international staff. We aim to offer world class services for our clients with a national focus, to benefit clients, working knowledgeably and closely with local Government Ministries and commercial contacts.

We help firms and review their HR processes. For example, there are three key criteria for a successful EP application. This should indicate the candidate assists the Government’s objectives for companies in Singapore. The recent guidelines highlight the need for companies described as “Centralised with shared services or facilities, automation, and skills development for

We have already been speaking to clients and reviewing their EP programmes. There is also the Lean Enterprise Development (LED) Scheme. This is a pilot plan running over 2 years for SMEs seeking to employ staff from overseas. It offers more flexibility on the application process along with additional guidelines to be fulfilled in year 3.

As a reminder here are the introductory elements for an EP.

An EP is for Foreign professionals with a job offer in Singapore who meet the eligibility criteria.

An employer or appointed employment agent needs to apply on behalf of the candidate.

The fixed monthly salary should be at least $3,300 (more experienced candidates should show higher salaries).

The duration of the pass is for first-time candidates is up to 2 years and renewals are for up to 3 years.

Contact us for more information and let us help you with all PASS APPLICATIONS, checking and submitting the required documents for your company in Singapore.

Singapore – wins again in Ease of Doing Business list – World Bank
31 Oct

Singapore – wins again in Ease of Doing Business list – World Bank

Every year the World Bank issues a list of countries, ranked in order of ease of doing business with their Ease of Doing Business Index.

So gaining a Number 1 status, the best, is the aim of all countries. Singapore has again won this top position. This is an on-going accolade which they have won over the last 10 years.

Winning second place is New Zealand followed by Denmark, Korea, Hong Kong SAR China, United Kingdom and the USA. In total 189 countries are listed.

The index averages the country’s percentile rankings on 10 topics covered in the World Bank’s Doing Business. The topics include starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, obtaining credit, taxes and cross border trading.

The World Bank stated the top countries have “efficient and transparent functioning of businesses and markets”.

We are seeing business thrive in Singapore and are pleased to be helping many of them with corporate support services and recruitment. Call us to see how we can help you join this thriving area now.

Singapore regulator sees improvements are needed within smaller audit firms
12 Oct

Singapore regulator sees improvements are needed within smaller audit firms

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore ACRA has published findings following its last annual review and inspections of audit firms in Singapore. Whereas an improvement has been noted, generally, smaller audit firms and non-listed companies have issues.

Larger auditing firms were seen to have successfully worked with more focus to ensure the quality of their audits. Smaller firms were reported as having “recurring audit deficiencies in areas such as revenue recognition fair value measurements and construction contracts”.

The authority has been stating that it seeks further improvements in transparency and disclosures in financial reporting by companies. This statement for improved audits clearly runs in parallel with this aim, following the recent findings by ACRA. The regulator has identified some repetitive audit deficiencies, that they are not prepared to accept. New enforcement measures are to be considered.

Singapore endorsing United Nations Security Council resolutions.
05 Oct

Singapore endorsing United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Companies in Singapore are reminded that they are required to comply with regulations issued by the United Nations. Notably, to support the financial sanctions aimed at named individuals and entities. Financial institutions in Singapore regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) must comply with MAS Regulations.

Singapore became a Member of the United Nations on 21 September 1965 and adds its backing to the various guidelines, regulations and financial sanctions issued by the Security Council. These are published widely when The Resolutions are adopted.

The list of names and obligations are also shown on the web site of the MAS. Companies are required to subscribe to email alerts, via this web site, specifically within the sections relating to Anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism – AML/CFT. Failure to subscribe will be identified in the next compliance review for that company.

The service is designed to help companies. It provides an alert when there are changes to the list of UN designated individuals and entities and or high risk jurisdictions named by the Financial Action Task Force. (The FATF sets the international standards on combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism & proliferation).

Note: With effect from 1 November 2014, professional accountants and public accountants must abide by enhanced mandatory requirements on implementing controls and procedures for AML/CFT.

The enhanced requirements are contained in the new Ethics Pronouncement 200 – “Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism – Requirements and Guidelines for Professional Accountants in Singapore” issued by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA). This pronouncement is also being adopted by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) and will be applicable to public accountants and accounting entities registered under the Accountants Act who are regulated by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).

Success Stories Asia.  FocusCore ‘BPO’ Success Secrets with Raj  Alagendran.
18 Aug

Success Stories Asia. FocusCore ‘BPO’ Success Secrets with Raj Alagendran.


Q 1: What is a BPO and what can be outsourced?

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is an element of outsourcing, when the operations and responsibilities of a specific business process are contracted out to a third-party service provider. But I would like to focus also on the term Back office Process “office”: This is a place where you can consolidate your operations under one roof. It can be set up within the company borders within country or outside the company borders.

There are two main options – with the first option the services can be set up as “Captive” shared services. This means creating a bespoke shared resource office and this is owned by the client company. This shared services office is an extension of the main company, with access to the same corporate HR, IT etc. I will detail in a moment the services that can be provided by this solution. The other option is outsourced BPO. This means “Outsourcing” your activity to an external BPO company – this is the “Outsource” option as opposed to the “Captive” option. It is important to understand these two options and how they differ. Indeed, I should create two acronyms – BPO and BPo.

To make this difference clearer, let me explain a recent example. Over the last 10 years we created a shared services office in India. This specific example was for France Telecom. The employees were from France Telecom and this is a Captive example, a multi function services office. Also, I recently provided consultancy for a major hotel group on facilities for incoming and outgoing calls, specifically, incoming reservation calls and outgoing sales calls.

What can be outsourced?

Normally, the non-core activities of an organisation can be outsourced. For example, if we use a mining company as an example, the core activity would be mining operations and sales. Non-core activity could be IT, HR and Finance and any other departments that provide supporting operations. If we look across all sectors of industry and services this could include:-

Data entry services
Call centre services – incoming and outgoing calls
Medical transcription – Doctors have large transcription demands.
Healthcare – scanning, blood tests, data entry of results.

(In the Healthcare model we transcribe medical records. For accuracy for every 10 transcribers we also have a Doctor onsite to validate the texts created. At present I have 400 transcribers providing data entry and they work with the 40 Doctors.

There is a large demand for these medical reports to being written, verified, prior to being sent to the client).

Finance and accounting. For example, for one client I have 180 staff covering accounts payable and account receivable.

Administration Facilities. Travel bookings, PA services, “Virtual Personal Assistants”.

Web analytics

A growing service: Web Analytical Skills, Analysing web metrics – we can help a company read and maximise their understanding of their web site metrics with expert views and commentaries: Who viewed the site? Which products were selected? We provide a dashboard of results that the CEO can review easily. A web site can be interactive, as demand to view can vary and we can analyse and tell the Board what is happening on their site. A company can use our services to analyse their web site activity and make their site more effective.

Q 2: Why do businesses set up BPO’S?

You set up a shared BPO to optimise on efficiency and leverage on industry best practices. With the latest technologies the BPO can be set up in any part of the world. One of the primary drivers for a BPO solution is cost. We can show savings every year for the client company, with best practise, latest technologies and optimum pricing so lower the annual company running costs.

Often our new clients have experienced or heard of bad experiences in BPO with quality of service being an issue, in the past. This I review in a forthcoming question but let me say now it is the reason we always keep up to date with industry best practise. For example, I attend seminars around the world focussed on this subject to make sure we can provide the latest and best practises to our client, wherever they are located.

Q 3: What are the risks?

One of the primary concerns is losing control of the processes managed in a BPO. For example, the client CFO may have concerns on quality control and data accuracy. The other factors are data integrity and data security. Both of which we also focus upon and introduce continuous improvements. The CFO may have found when with his own staff he can introduce changes easily and therefore adopt and adapt. We use skilled management specialists continually to recommend improvements and implement these improvements, if opportunities arise. We strive to identify the routes to improvements whenever possible.

We also review regularly ISO guidelines for IT security. For example when we work for Governments or clients in the Finance Sector we have to conform to their additional IT Data Security demands. With the shared services model we can provide these top levels of IT security but not the top costs! Costs can be mitigated with the shared model.

Hackers never give up and companies always have concerns about the cost of IT security. We can provide the latest IT security standards and when on a shared services model then of course the data centres and security costs are shared.

Normally the BPO should be ISO certified and have certified professionals managing the BPO operations. We make sure appropriate and skilled management is in place to maintain conformity, integrity and efficiency. IT security, as I have said, is a key concern for all companies. Governments have the same control issues with their tougher security rules. IT security needs to be audited regularly by reputable IT and Data Audit organisations. Many companies say with cost as the issue they reduce security but with outsourcing we can provide top levels of IT security and it is on a share operating model – i.e. if we serve three countries for the same company we have with one data centre, a major plus point – this is obviously backed up to allow business continuity and service resilience.

Q 4: What are the advantages?

You have all your support functions under one roof. You can leverage on Industry best practices and have continuous process Improvements

If the client has been running a department for many years they may not have had the time to explore, review or test the latest best practices. When you bring in our BPO you bring in the global best practice. I recently helped a client company migrate from EXCEL to a better, more modern solution. We provide the latest tools to optimise cost, efficiency and accuracy.

Manage Budgets with ease.

With your own centre you have a target budget per year. But if suddenly staff leave, for example maternity leave, and you need contractors, or new systems are needed, added costs arise and your budget goes through the roof. With outsourcing your costs are FIXED. There are a host of issues that can arise with your own operational costs but with outsource the costs are known and furthermore the services will not come to a stop if there is any form of natural or manmade disaster. All of our sites are replicated as we take business continuity to its highest level. You can finally control with certainty your headcount and staff and overhead costs.

Q 5: Can you build a BPO one headcount at a time

Yes of course. CFO and CEO expectations are that with outsourcing or insourcing a BPO should have volume or a number of people. In an insourcing option we require a minimum number. However, if you are planning an outsourced model there are a lot of companies, who started with just one in the outsourced headcount. If required we can quickly ramp up to the numbers required by the client, at any time. With the captive offering it does not make sense to start with one, but on a shared services model you can start with 1 to 5 staff with also an emergency ramp up solution – we have the flexibility to do this: e.g. add 200 people in 1 week until the crisis is over.

Q 6: What are the major risks for CFO?

Cutting it too loose too early – make sure the transition time allowance is adequate and realistic

As an example, with one client, we had been called in and the staff had already been told they were leaving as the company was outsourcing. The permanent staff had left the company! This created extra tasks for us as it was not possible to review existing processes.

Normally we have a well tested process that includes these steps:-

– Initiate the “Solution Design Workshop” – this reviews current processes
– Present proposed services solutions to the client
– Identify current and future risks etc.,
– Obtain agreement and sign off on the service model proposed
– Knowledge transfer. Train the Trainer. This is a training phase and to produce the desktop processing manuals, employee procedures, noting and explaining all the different processes.
– Interface Transition – training on the job for all parties.
– Test transition.

We expect this may take 6 to 12 months so it is important the time is available for the process and also have a client site co-ordinator for the client and the outsource office to call.

Therefore, when planning the transformation activity the CFO needs to give extra allowance on the timelines and headcount. If you plan a transition from a mature country to a low cost country and expect performance to be maintained at same level, it may not be realistic without going through our well tested preparatory procedures, in the necessary timescales.

We need to have at least 1:1.5 head count approval. We need to streamline the process and normally should be able to show process optimisation of 1:1 within 6 months. We usually find we can streamline the processes.

The cost savings on salary will by itself cover this cost. This will ensure a better transformation path with low or minimum business interruption. The cost savings on salary alone is over 70% and savings continue year on year.

It is, therefore, important to keep the identified SME for a minimum of 6 months to one year. Again this can be paid off on the salary cost savings on the first year. This will also allow the CFO to show year on year savings for minimum of 3 years.

We always strive to get the buy-in of all of the Executive Committee and also with the first service reports it is clearly visible that it has been a successful transition as so continue to get this buy-in from the Board. We are regularly surprised at the costs savings we have secured. There are those who try to break efforts for BPO, so we work hard to get all on board as the policy should be “together we can do a lot more”.

Amendments now in force for qualifying “Small Companies” allowing exemption from statutory annual audit – ACRA 1 July 2015.
07 Aug

Amendments now in force for qualifying “Small Companies” allowing exemption from statutory annual audit – ACRA 1 July 2015.

Earlier this year the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, ACRA announced rule changes that came into force on 1 July.  This relates to the first phase of the Companies (Amendment) Act 2014.  The reason for the change was to reduce the regulatory demands on small companies. For example, it allows exemption from a statutory annual audit by creating a “small company concept”.  The changes apply to financial returns for the financial year starting on or after 1 July 2015.

Guidance has been issued on the criteria needed to qualify for the classification, as well as transitional provisions. (Details to help companies licensed under the old law to continue to be licensed under the new law).

We can provide further details. As a summary guide, under the original law a company was exempt from having its accounts audited if it was a private company with annual revenues of up to $5 million. The amendments for exemption now apply for a private company, which meets at least 2 of 3 following criteria for the immediate past two consecutive financial years. Total annual revenues of up to $10m. Total assets of up to $10m. Maximum number of employees 50. There are further rules for a company which is part of a group.

Phase 2 is expected Q1 2016. The further planned amendments have been announced that include, amongst other proposals, “liberalising rules on electronic transaction of documents by companies.”

Note: In 2014 Singapore was ranked the easiest place to do business by World Bank for the eighth consecutive year. (ACRA Annual Report).

ACRA was formed as a statutory board on 1 April 2004, following the merger of the then Registry of Companies and Businesses (RCB), and the Public Accountants’ Board (PAB).