Public Officers vs. Company Secretaries: Differences and Similarities

18th December 2023

Our topic today is Public Officers vs. Company Secretaries: Differences and Similarities, and in the realm of corporate governance, the roles of public officers and company secretaries are each pivotal to success, yet distinct. 

Understanding the differences and similarities between these two positions is essential for businesses aiming to uphold transparency, compliance, and effective management. 

We’ll delve into the responsibilities of public officers and company secretaries, offering insights to help businesses make informed decisions, with insights from Kilgetty Statutory Services.

Kilgetty is South Africa’s leading Company Secretarial platform, led by a team of industry professionals committed to making life easier for business owners, large and small.

As the trusted company secretarial service provider to many of the largest legal practices in South Africa, as well as to clients of what is known as the “Big 4” accounting practices, these industry leaders bring a wealth of knowledge, skill and extensive experience to bear in working with business owners to develop tailored services that are flexible enough to serve any company or entity of every size, across the board. 

With two offices in Gauteng and Cape Town, along with a skilled IT team that is continually developing new solutions in order to provide clients with the latest technology available to cut costs and streamline processes efficiently, Kilgetty is always at your service.

Public Officers vs. Company Secretaries: Differences and Similarities

Public Officers: Guardians of Regulatory Compliance


Public officers act as liaisons between businesses and regulatory bodies such as SARS and the CIPC for instance, ensuring that companies adhere to the myriad of laws and standards governing their operations. 

Simply put, the Public Officer is the individual tasked with managing your company’s tax matters. This person is accountable for fulfilling various responsibilities and duties on behalf of your company. These include tasks such as submitting annual and provisional tax returns, handling taxpayer and employer registrations, submitting monthly declarations and annual returns for employees’ tax, updating address information, and accepting notices served against your company.

Key Functions:

  1. Interpreting Regulations: Public officers are tasked with deciphering complex regulatory frameworks, communicating changes to businesses, and guiding them on compliance strategies.
  2. Facilitating Filings: They oversee the submission of regulatory documents, from tax returns, VAT registration and submission to industry-specific permits, ensuring accuracy and timeliness.
  3. Internal Audits: Public officers conduct regular internal audits to identify and address potential areas of non-compliance before they can escalate into major problems.
  4. Compliance Programs: Collaborating with businesses to develop and implement comprehensive compliance programs tailored to their industry and regulatory environment.

Company Secretaries: Architects of Corporate Governance


Company secretaries focus on the overall governance and administration of a company. Their role extends beyond regulatory compliance to encompass board management, stakeholder communication, and maintaining proper corporate records.

Key Functions:

  1. Board Support: Company secretaries play a crucial role in supporting the board of directors, ensuring effective communication, and facilitating decision-making processes.
  2. Stakeholder Communication: They manage communication between the company and its shareholders, fostering transparency and trust.
  3. Corporate Records: Company secretaries maintain accurate and up-to-date corporate records, including minutes of meetings, shareholder records, and other vital documentation.
  4. Legal Compliance: While they are not directly responsible for regulatory compliance, company secretaries assist in ensuring the company operates within the bounds of the law.

Differences and Similarities: A Comparative Overview

  1. Focus Areas:
  • Public Officers: Primarily concerned with regulatory compliance and adherence to external laws.
  • Company Secretaries: Focus on overall corporate governance, internal processes, and stakeholder relations.
  1. Legal Expertise:
  • Public Officers: Specialise in interpreting and applying external regulations.
  • Company Secretaries: Possess legal knowledge but focus on internal governance structures and processes.
  1. Internal vs. External:
  • Public Officers: Deal with external regulatory bodies.
  • Company Secretaries: Primarily handle internal corporate affairs and communication.
  1. Reporting Lines:
  • Public Officers: Typically report to top management or legal departments.
  • Company Secretaries: Often report directly to the board of directors.

Making Informed Decisions: The Way Forward

While the roles of public officers and company secretaries differ, both are integral to a company’s success. For businesses, the decision to appoint one or both positions depend on their specific needs, industry requirements, and the complexity of their operations. 

In many cases, outsourcing public officer services or a professional company secretary to a stable, trusted company such as Kilgetty Statutory Services offers a strategic and cost-effective solution, ensuring comprehensive governance and compliance, without overburdening internal resources.

In conclusion, understanding the nuances between public officers and company secretaries allows businesses to tailor their governance structures to meet their unique needs. 

Whether navigating external regulations or fostering internal corporate health, these roles contribute indispensably to the overall success and sustainability of a business.

Contact the friendly professionals at Kilgetty to provide you with tailored, cost-effective solutions that will simplify and streamline your internal and external industry requirements, keeping you fully in line with all statutory and tax compliance, as you strive for success in a fragile, ever-changing economic landscape.