Contract for ‘historic’ $202.9M single-window system signed

The contract for the historic single-window system was on Wednesday signed between the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) and Global Services Inc. to the tune of some $202.9 million.

The signing was conducted at the Ministry of Housing and Water’s boardroom, Brickdam, Georgetown by CH&PA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sherwyn Greaves, and Global Services contractor and representative, George Melville.

Housing and Water Minister, Collin Croal

The single-window system enables CH&PA to act as a point of entry, allowing planning and development applicants to submit information to a single electronic submission point, rather than having the hassle of dealing with multiple agencies and processes.

With the establishment of the system, contractors in the planning and development sector will see a reduction in the bureaucracy they previously encountered when submitting applications to CH&PA.

The initiative will see a conversion to an electronic system, the construction and upgrading of infrastructure to accommodate the system, and time efficiency.

It also provides dashboards that allow staff to monitor the status of individual applications and generate reports as needed, allows users to track the progress of their applications post-submission, and streamlines processes through deadline and escalation functions.

Minister within the Housing and Water Ministry, Susan Rodrigues expressed satisfaction with ministry being able to kickstart the project before the end of the year.

She lauded the transformational nature of the initiative, labelling it ‘a solution for the ease of conducting business in Guyana’.

“For many years, you have heard the government speak about reducing bureaucracy, reducing the ‘red tape’, and making it easy for people to do business in Guyana. This is a demonstration of that commitment. So, this IT platform, followed by the legislation that will be passed and made law, will allow for a single window for planning and building permits,” she said.

Minister within the Housing and Water Ministry, Susan Rodrigues

The minister outlined the cumbersome process that exists at present, reiterating the relief the single-window system will bring to entrepreneurs.

“There is a whole host of agencies that you have to go to in order to track your application, and you have to do this in person. With each agency, you have to submit different applications with various requirements. This tremendously eases that process of doing business, where you will present your completed application at a single window, and that is what this IT solution will facilitate.”

To boost efficiency, the system contains a unique time-bound system to ensure agency representatives respond within a particular amount of time, with unaddressed applications being automatically approved.

Subjectivity and corruption will be addressed with this new model, as applicants will be able to view the status and response to their applications, whether it has been denied or approved.

“So, no Guyanese, or no investor, has to fear any kind of subjectivity, or fear that any official will deny their application simply because the public official doesn’t like them, or anything like that. So, it removes any bias and subjectivity from the system,” Minister Rodrigues said.

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Meanwhile, Housing and Water Minister, Collin Croal, noted that the system and its accompanying legislation foster transparency and accountability at the administrative level.

He noted that the government’s transformational agenda does not only encompass physical aspects, but involves the development of systems and policies that help us to move forward as a country.

“When we laid the Planning and Development Single Window System Bill, that signalled a government commitment to ensure that we also uplift the way we do business, and change the environment and parameters in which we operate as a government.

“Here, you have an example of what we mean when we reference transparency and accountability. Because throughout the process, at every stage, we have accountability in terms of responding.”

He explained that the team from Global Services will ensure an easily navigational interface for the platform. Throughout the programme’s implementation, the consortium will continuously map, reassess and re-engineer the platform so that it runs efficiently for all parties involved.

Global Services contractor and representative, George Melville

A steering committee will oversee the operations of the companies involved, to ensure deadlines and budgetary allocations are met.

“This is, as I said, historic, and Guyana certainly must feel accommodating, and feel a sense of change,” Minister Croal said.

He highlighted that all teams involved have worked hard to meet the year-end deadline set out for the tabling of the Bill by President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, and congratulated all involved for their hard work.

Earlier this month, the Single-Window Bill was read for the first time in the National Assembly.

It also seeks to provide for the establishment of the Planning Oversight Committee, to define the functions of the committee, centralise functions relating to land use preparation and development, and matters associated with it.

Once the legislation is in place, it will, among other things, standardise application forms and checklists, as well as drastically cut down on the time needed to complete a transaction.

The implementation of the single window system forms part of the government’s efforts to create a business-friendly environment and reduce the hassle of doing business, through an electrical portal that allows investors to submit planning and building permits, and check the status of the permits from anywhere in the world.

The single-window system is expected to be online by early July 2023. A hybrid system will be employed in the initial stages, and the transition will gradually be made to the fully electronic system.

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