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Issuing construction permits simplified after going online

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Like everywhere around the globe, dealing with construction permits has been a tough task for both the government of Rwanda and its populations. However, this process has been made easier after on May 20th this year, the City of Kigali launched the on-line Construction Permit Management System which is aimed at making it faster and easier for developers to get construction permits. The move is undoubtedly seen as a significant development for the country’s business reforms especially in as far as promoting the infrastructure development is concerned in the country. Rwanda made dealing with construction permits easier and less costly by reducing the building permit fees, implementing an electronic platform for building permit applications and streamlining procedures.

The acquisition of a construction permit is one of the World Bank benchmarks in ranking countries in its annual doing business reports. According to the World Bank’s 2013 doing Business report, it used to take investors in Rwanda 164 days or over five months to obtain a construction permit in Rwanda and the country was ranked 98th out of 189 economies of the world measured but according to Lillian Mupende, the Coordinator of the One-Stop Center which offers construction permits, it now takes not more than 30days for one to get a construction permit which include various things like a free hold title, construction permit and other accessories like telephone lines.

She says currently for one to only acquire a construction without other accessories, it takes fewer days adding that her centre intends to reduce this time frame to between 21 to 20 days in the nearby future. “The underlying issue here as regards to offering constructing permit is that our prime objective is to offer fast, simple and reliable services to everyone who comes to our centre to acquire a construction per- mit since this a key factor in infrastructure development and the economy at large,” Mupende said.

She noted that although Rwanda has significantly improved in the 2014 World Bank Doing Business report in terms of dealing with construction permits due to several reforms which were put in place, there is still a need to improve saying that her institution is planning to merge various procedures concerning getting a construction permit which include getting an occupation permit, free hold title, and authorization to get a construction permit all into one procedure, among others.

She added that they intend to further streamline, and simplify construction permit procedures for one to get a construction permit saying that this will be implemented through introducing accessibility to the City of Kigali Master plan on-line which she said is very important as it will enable most multi-national companies streaming into Rwanda as well as the Rwandan population in general. The launching of the Kigali Construction Permit Management Information System, in May this year to which the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) was a major stakeholder has significantly played a big role in easing the procedure.

Speaking at the launch, the Mayor of the City of Kigali, Fidele Ndayisaba said: “The construction Permit Management Information System will not only help to enhance service delivery in the City of Kigali but also promote doing business and facilitate investors and other developers in their respective activities.”

Speaking at the same event to launch the $1.1m project, the Minister of Infra- structure, Prof Silas Lwakabamba, point- ed out that the new technology is aimed at making services available in a convenient and transparent manner. “Kigali, as a gateway to Rwanda, it is important that we keep up with the latest standards and we are fully committed to that,” said Prof. Lwakabamba.

According to the Doing Business Unit at RDB, Rwanda’s efforts in reforming this particular indicator are being inspired by the best in the world, the most competitive economies with reforms that have had tangible results. In that line, Rwanda has chosen Hong Kong, which is ranked first globally, as the model to inspire all efforts directed at improving this indicator.

According the 2013 DB report, it takes just six procedures and 67 days for an investor to acquire his/her construction permits in Hong Kong, the Rwandan government through the One Stop Center has come up with different mechanism and strategies which will further ease the issuing of the construction permits in the country. Also to catch up, it was paramount that Rwanda came up with a system which wouldn’t only reduce the costs but also time spent on the long procedures involved in obtaining permits which are 12 according to the DB 2013 report.

Management Information System (MIS): Simple, Fast and Reliable

Initially, investors seeking to obtain construction permits from the city authorities had to do it manually, which took twelve procedures and a lot of paperwork. This was obviously challenging for investors, because it cost a lot of money and time was spent not only in getting all the papers to make the application, but also in following up on its progress.

What the developers of MIS did was to compress all the procedures into an electronic form that can be filled out on- line through a special page on KCC’s website. According to Mupende, the MIS has reduced twelve steps to only five procedures and compliant investors can expect to obtain their permits within a maximum of just thirty days. The application procedures have been categorized in a ten-ten-ten basis which means that on submission of the application for the first time, the investor can be given feedback after just ten days. “If all requirements are met in the first ten days, then the permit would be issued,” Mupende says. The beauty of the ten-ten-ten approach is that an investor gets early guidance on what to correct if there are mistakes or missing requirements that need to be up-dated. This means that if the applicant can provide all the needed documents after the first ten days, they can get their permit in twenty days after the second ten day review on resubmission of the application.

Karim Tushabe, the coordinator of the Doing Business unit at RDB, strongly believes the new system will be a tool that will help improve Rwanda’s rankings in the World Bank’s Doing Business Indicators. “Obtaining construction permits is a very important indicator and we expect this on-line facility to improve our World Bank rankings, enhance our competitiveness hence attract more investors,” Tushabe observed. Rwanda ease of doing business re- forms 2013-2014 status report in terms of dealing with construction permits.

Reduced procedures from12 to 6.

This was achieved through the creation of a single application form merging applications and inspection processes for the construction permit, water and electricity and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Issuance of EIA and utilities connection is done at One Stop. Center (OSC), RDB and EWSA designated EIA, water and electricity experts who were given the full mandate to start approving all dossiers.

The work they have done is reflected in all the projects that OSC has concluded ever since they started implementing the reform on merged procedures. The cost for obtaining a construction permit has been reduced to a flat fee depending on the size of the project. It varies between Rwf 20,000 and Rwf 60,000. Introduction of the Management Information System (MIS) for processing construction permit applications on-line.

Since March, 2013, it has been mandatory for all to apply for construction permits on-line. All the information related to construction permits is available at www.kcps.gov.rw

Removal of the requirement for a deed plan

Architects now use a standard checklist for the requirements for the construction permit application. The checklist saves time and speeds up the process since all the architects and engineers are aware of what they must submit beforehand. This makes it easy for them to prepare their project designs & drawings allowing One Stop Center to review them in a timely manner.

Due to the reduction in time, construction permits are issued in30days. All commercial entities are eligible for applying and getting construction permits through the One Stop Center irrespective of size, as well as non-commercial projects where the property will be occupied by more than 100 people and is of more than one storey.

Architects & Engineers commend reform

Fred Rwihunda, the President of the Institute of Architects and Engineers said: “In the engineering discipline, we used to use a lot of paper – sometimes you could use about 300 pages on a single map – but we graduated to software, now we have a further more favoring initiative which is this on-line submission of applications.” Also Sheila Rwangezi, a property developer also hailed the on-line system saying that it was timely and said she expects that it will ease their operations and re- duce costs.

To further make the life of professional architects and engineers easier, Mupende said that they merged all construction permit services under one roof adding that the applicant no longer needs to go to EWSA to get the water and electricity connection or to REMA to get the Environmental Impact Assessment certificate. “We have brought everyone under the One Stop Centre and we project a significant improvement in our doing business performance as well as attracting more investors in the country because dealing with construction permits has been made easier compared to the past,” Mupende said.

PRE-CONSULTATION MEETING

Before starting on the real permit application process, investors are advised to seek consultation with the city authorities. This is optional for small scale construction undertakings but a must for large scale development (more than 1 ha) and/or 400 users. At this stage, the investor’s representative can submit by email his Fiche Cadastre, Deed Plan, or Plot Survey to the city authorities who will in turn do the following;

Check your plot against the zoning, slopes, wetlands, land use, transportation constraints

Prepare a PDF map of your plot to show you the zoning, building constraints, and developable area

Discuss options for development on your plot

Explain all the submission requirements

Show you how to submit a CP application on the MIS Website

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