Will new reforms cut the red-tape in construction?

With a growth rate of 20 per cent in 2018, the construction sector is one of the main drivers of Rwanda’s economic growth.
Workers during construction activities in Busanza. Sam Ngendahimana.

The Government Monday announced seven new reforms in the construction sector aimed at effectively reducing the time and cost of acquiring building permits.

The development partly seeks to address outstanding complaints of sector stakeholders as well as offset the country’s poor performance in the World Bank annual Doing Business indices. The country was last year ranked 106th in dealing with construction permits.

With a growth rate of 20 per cent in 2018, the construction sector is one of the main drivers of Rwanda’s economic growth.

Previously the process took about 15 steps which has since been reduced to nine while the number of days to obtain construction permits will reduce from 113 to 57.

Government projects that this will ultimately reduce the cost of construction from 12 per cent to 2.2 per cent of the construction value.

The reforms, among other things, will eliminate multiple processes and requirements such as geotechnical studies for select buildings as well as easing on requirements of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).

One will no longer be required to notify the One-Stop Centre as to when they intend to commence construction, or required to obtain a topographic survey. 

The reforms also removed the site mobilisation inspection as well as reduced the time to obtain water connection from 30 days to 10 days.

Whilst stakeholders welcomed the reforms, they say that the sector still faces persistent challenges beyond the reform aspects which holds back pace of operations.

From instance, the say, the reforms are a welcome move towards easing the process, reducing cost and time but should be accompanied by simpler and easy interventions.

They cited the automation of the application process for construction permit which brought a new set of challenges.

The building permit management system – which is used to make applications for permits – is either too technical for users or lacks provisions for providing feedback to applicants.

Philip Dufatanye, a civil engineer, complained that the lack of instant and regular feedback during the application process is a huge setback, especially with time being a cost driving factor.

Jean Paul Imanshimwe, another engineer, said there’s inconsistence in the permit issuance process, when plans are submitted for approval.

The issuing authority, he said, is known to raise new challenges for multiple instances despite previous corrections being made.

Engineers, architects and planners alike called for capacity building in order to enhance predictable interactions with authorities.

Kefa Angwenyi, a city architect, called for the improvement of the construction permit renewal process saying that it often holds up operations.

Construction permits issued have a duration of about years while some projects construction time is longer than that. The renewal process, he said, can be a reason for major holds up the implementation of a project.

Kigali City Mayor Marie-Chantal Rwakazina told The New Times that there are multiple ongoing interventions beyond the cited reforms to improve the process for the benefit of homeowners and stakeholders such as architects.

“There are some things that had been changed that we were not doing anymore but because of the regulations, they were not recognised by the World Bank Doing Business Report,” she said.

She, however, said that there remains a challenge of knowledge of the reforms and provision by applicants which often leads most to assume that the process is cumbersome and long.

“When you do not know that the provisions exist, you will still cite challenges,” she said.

The city is also keen on continuously improving the tools used for the process such as the automated system as well as the expertise of the staff handling it.

The city is set to restructure the One-Stop-Centre, which is involved in the issuance of the permits, a process which could see more staff allocated to departments that are overwhelmed.

Eudes Kayumba, the Head of Architects in the country, welcomed the reforms saying that they will go a long way in improving conditions for professionals and their clients.

He said that, going forward, it’s important to roll out the reforms and efficiency countrywide which seemed to be a challenge in the past, noting differences service delivery in different parts of the country.


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