Bureaucracy removed as single-window portal for building permits launched

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

The approval of construction permits across Guyana has now been made easier with the launch of the new electronic Planning and Development Single Window System, which according to President Dr Irfaan Ali will remove the bureaucracy and red-tape in the current fragmented planning and approvals process.

Through a single online portal, planning applications can be submitted to a number of state agencies that are involved in the construction permitting process and will undergo a simultaneous approval process. The Single Window System will also allow applicants to track the progress of their applications and also allow them to appeal any rejection.

During the launch of the Planning and Development of Single Window System on Wednesday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, President Dr Irfaan Ali disclosed that this project has been in the works since 2013 and got fast-tracked when the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) returned to office in 2020 and found that over US$50 million in private sector investments were being stalled due to the lengthy processing time for permits – as much as three years.

The Head of State noted that the introduction of this single window system will not only reduce the red-tape but also identify which agencies and individuals are the ones lagging in processing these building permits.

“We will have agencies that are not pulling their weight and then the entire system face the burden of the inefficiency. In this approach now, there is a time set and if you don’t submit your comment, it is taken as an approval… silent is taken as approval. And then you will be held accountable as to why you did not submit your approval. That’s an important part of the system; it’s time-sensitive. So, no one can hold your application on their desk anymore and believe they have all of God’s life to approve it,” President Ali stated.

According to the Head of State, while the existing system would have worked in the past, the current rapid development and expansion warrants a new approach.

“The system is totally antiquated for the type of development and the speed of development that is taking place… The only way we can catch up and the only way we can be relevant is if technology aid us and that is what is going on here,” he stressed.

Currently, the processing of all construction permits from the various state agencies take about three months. This time has now been massively reduced to one-month with the newly launched Single Window System.

According to Minister within the Housing and Water Ministry, Susan Rodrigues, it was necessary to have such a portal given the unprecedented wave of development taking place across the country. In fact, she disclosed that between October 2020 to May 2024, the ministry’s Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) considered 3,611 planning permission applications with some 136 of those directly related to the burgeoning oil and gas industry.

With the CHPA leading the implementation of this online platform, widespread consultations were held with stakeholders throughout Guyana, experts were retained to map and re-engineer the current system, and the relevant legislations were passed in the National Assembly.

A special Unit will be set up at the CHPA to manage the daily functioning of the single window system, maintain an electronic database and assist users, among other duties. In addition, a Planning Oversight Committee is also expected to be established, in accordance with the law, and will be responsible for monitoring the CHPA’s implementation of the system and ensure policy-adherence.

While the CHPA is the implementing agency, there are 15 other state agencies connected to the single window system, which President Ali disclosed was developed locally by the National Data-Management Authority (NDMA) and can be shared with Caribbean partners.

“One of the hindrances that we had in this programme was the software that we were initially looking at had a recurring cost that was very very high. It would’ve been very costly… and it had a transactional aspect too. So, we tasked the NDMA to come up with a home-made solution that would not have any of the recurring cost and our National IT Consultant… and his team [came] up with this home-grown and home-made software that we can now share free of cost with the rest of our brothers and sisters in this region because this entire platform is meant to be transferrable to all the countries within the region so we can all improve our doing business indicators, enhance our competitiveness and transparency,” he noted.

In fact, the Guyanese Leader has already instructed Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, and Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh to write the various global indicators to keep them informed of this new development in Guyana.

“This definitely has to put us… in the top 10 when it comes to construction permitting. There are very few [similar] systems we can point to globally. We’re setting ourselves apart here and this is innovation at its highest,” Ali declared.In the World Bank’s 2020 report on Ease of Doing Business, Guyana was ranked 134 out of 190 countries. At the time, President Ali had committed to improving the country’s Ease of Doing Business ranking with the establishment of the single window system, among other things.

According to the Head of State at Wednesday’s launch, the introduction of the Planning and Development Single Window System is expected to create a more transparent, efficient and investor-friendly environment to help accelerate development, attract more investments and ultimately contribute to Guyana’s economic growth and modernisation.

He also outlined that it will take away the ‘human biasness’ from the approval process and shift it towards a more rule-based environment. The Guyanese Leader added that it will also eliminate corruption with the system.“I don’t want everybody, when I go on a public outreach, to come to me and believe they have to talk to me to get things done. The system must work, the system must be rule-based, the system must be trusted, the system must be efficient,” President Ali posited.