Stakeholders in the construction industry have welcomed a new system to manage building permits in secondary cities across the country.
The Building Permit Management Information System (BPMIS) was launched by Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) in Musanze District, Northern Province, in collaboration with the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC).
BPMIS is designed to help fast-track organised housing in the country’s six designated secondary cities of Musanze in Northern Province, Rubavu and Rusizi in Western Province, Muhanga and Huye in Southern Province, and Nyagatare in Eastern Province.
BPMIS is designed to allow applicants to submit online permit requests, shorten the time required for one-stop centres to assess, approve and report on permit applications and efficiently provide feedback on sites and plots inspections.
It is expected to enhance transparency in the issuance of building permits because it will contain clear instructions to follow and it will help keep the data that would otherwise be scattered across district offices in the country.
The Executive Secretary of the Engineers Institute of Rwanda, Bonny Rutembesa, said the new system will reduce the cost of doing business because most submissions for permits will now be made online.
“This is really a good answer; it’s a milestone for us. This is an answer that the Government has just given us in line with easing the cost of doing business. It will tremendously cut costs that engineers and architects were making in the process to submit their applications,” he said.
Jean Damascene Habyarimana, the Musanze vice-mayor for economic affairs, said the new system will further improve the district’s services.
“It is a good step in the development of our country. The system will help many people to easily acquire their building permits,” he said. “I don’t mean we were not giving good services but I admit that we were not doing it fast enough.”
The system has already been rolled out in Musanze and Rubavu and will be taken to the remaining four secondary cities by the end of the year, officials said.
Among other information, it will help to collect and store data about applications for building permits, profiles for licensed engineers and architects, and keep data on cities’ master plans.
It will operate in Kinyarwanda, French, and English while people will be paying for its services online through Irembo portal.
A leap forward
The software is a World Bank Group-owned open source application that was successfully deployed in the City of Kigali and is now being extended to secondary cities in the countryside.
The support in construction permits is part of the Bank’s third phase of Rwanda Investment Climate Reform Programme funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for a total amount of $7.2 million.
At the launch of the software, acting World Bank country manager Norah Kipwola said Rwanda is globally known for making strong gains in building its economy and that modernising the construction industry in secondary cities will in sustaining that feat.
“The World Bank will continue to work with the Government of Rwanda in making the six secondary cities an investment destination and exemplary for other cities in the country,” she said.
Under the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, the six secondary cities will be developed to achieve sustainable, well-managed and integrated economic growth.
The country also has ambitious targets of moving online most of its services to the people and seeks to achieve at least 95 per cent of the digitisation of the services in the next two years.
The Division Manager of Housing Regulations and Standards at RHA, Harouna Nshimiyimana, urged both the media and leaders to sensitise the public about the new system.
“What we want is for the organised city you see in Kigali to be replicated in other parts of the country. Changing old mindset is not easy but it’s possible. People need to understand that they need to move from the old system and embrace a new thinking,” he said.
Officials also say the system will improve Rwanda’s ranking in annual World Bank Doing Business Report related to dealing with construction permits.
It will also contribute toward the mitigation of environmental impacts through reduction of use of paper by completely eliminating manual processes.