CONSTRUCTION PERMIT REFORM AT THE COUNTY OF KIAMBU
Overview of Construction Permit Reform
The Electronic Development Application Management System (e-DAMS) is changing the way communities across the County of Kiambu do business, speeding the construction permit process for the people most involved—builders, inspectors, and plan reviewers—and providing better and more timely information to decision makers, managers, and staff throughout the County of Kiambu.
A building permit system is a set of laws and procedures that all building practitioners, such as builders, architects, planners, specialized design consultants, and contractors, have to abide by when engaging in the construction of a new building or in the modification of an existing building that has structural implications.
The main objective of regulating building permits is to ensure the health and safety of the community. Sound regulation of construction helps protect the public from faulty building practices. This has important implications for policy-makers who need to strike the right balance between the cost and checks imposed on industry and the real benefits in safety and health standards.
The building permit process also plays a critical “gate-keeper” role in protecting a range of other public goods such as preventing construction close to airports, and protecting the environment or preventing potentially harmful industries from locating in residential areas. When this “gate-keeper” function is not carefully managed and coordinated with the relevant authorities, an insurmountable bureaucracy may emerge, which is likely to discourage investment, and increase the level of informality. Carefully managing the “gate-keeper” role is an important factor in the success of building permit reforms.
Best practice reform experience consistently shows that new policy objectives, including those going beyond the improvement of public safety, can be combined with effective red tape reduction programs, and more efficient and streamlined processes.
Importance of Building Permit Reform
The enforcement of building permits is so complex that it continues to foment informality. In most developing countries, this rate hovers between 60 to 80 per cent. The end result is poor oversight on safety
, and higher costs for the community
; while the cost in human lives is most evident, local authorities lose the opportunity to generate more revenues. Entrepreneurs lose the chance to access formal financing sources, as they are unable to back their loans with formally-registered assets.
Building permit reforms reduce backlogs in building permit applications, and thus increase construction. The benefits of increased construction extend beyond employing more construction workers. Construction related materials and services are purchased from local suppliers, local jobs are created, and these workers will spend the income they earn at local establishments. In short, building permits are not just random administrative requirements, but are particularly important to generate more wealth, attract investment, and ensure a better protection of the community.
Top Reformers in Construction Permit Administration
Reforms in construction permit administration continue to take root in various parts of the world. In 2014/15, 17 economies across the world reformed their construction permit processes. Key reforms include: streamlining internal review processes for building permit applications, reducing time for process building permit applications, adopting new building regulations, improving building quality control processes, introducing/improving one stop shops and fees reduction.
Construction Permit Reform in Kenya
Globally, Kenya was ranked 149th
out of 189 economies in the world (World Bank Doing Business 2016 report)
on the ease of dealing with construction permits.
In March 2016, the County of Kiambu signed a Cooperation Agreement with the World Bank Group’s Kenya Investment Climate Programme 2, thus partnering to reform the County’s business environment in order to facilitate the creation and licensing of businesses, reduce the cost of doing business and ultimately attract more private investment in the County. Automating the construction permit system is one of the key objectives of this partnership.
The County of Kiambu worked with the World Bank Group’s Kenya Investment Climate Program 2 (KICP 2) - a three year program financed by UK Aid and the Dutch government - to design, develop, test and deploy the online system for construction permits. The e-Construction Permit system eliminates physical documents – working in an entirely paperless manner.
The outcome of this collaboration is a software system that for the first time in Kenya adds the planning and inspections work flows. Applications such as change of use, sub-division, regularization for change of use and sub-division, extension of lease & use applications will be submitted, reviewed & approved online. Further details of this software system are provided in this brochure.
Technical Description of the eDAMS Under Implementation by the County of Kiambu
Electronic permitting is a set of computer-based tools and services that automate and streamline the building permit process. An electronic permitting system typically replaces traditional paper and file-card systems. As a result, the intent of electronic permitting is to reduce permitting time, improve customer service and staff efficiency, enhance quality, and make operating funds more productive.
E-DAMS contain a broad array of task-specific tools for:
- Plan review
- Issuance of building permits
- Inspection scheduling
- Issuance of final occupancy certificates
- Project application tracking
- Fee calculation and collection
- Workflow management
- Customer communications through sms or email
- Live chat customer query response services
- Inter- and intra-departmental communication and management.
A user only needs a browser e.g. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and they can access the system’s full functionality. This system is also built entirely on best practice open-source technologies and consequently has no licensing costs.
The software is built to support the following functions specific to the administration of construction permits:
Key Benefits to Architects and Property Developers
- Registration of architects, physical planners and engineers into the system – architects, physical planners and engineers can register themselves into the system and vetting is done by the appropriate institution in order to permit them to access the system’s functionality.
- Submission of building proposals for review and approval – architects can upload their building proposals online without having to present themselves physically at the County offices.
- Submission of payment evidences – architects upload evidences of payments made for processing of building proposals
- Monitoring of submitted building proposals – architect can log into the system and view the status of their submitted building proposals. The system also notifies the applicants via SMS and email once the proposals complete key milestones in the system. Notifications are also received when actions are pending for the applicant e.g. requests to make payment.
- Review and approval of building proposals – Development Control officers in the County can log into the system, view submitted building proposals, provide comments on them and approve or return them (electronically) to the applicant for amendments.
- Issuance of construction permits – after approval, the system generates the permit and allows the applicant to download it immediately and commence construction works.
- Reporting on all activities related to the permitting process – the system has a comprehensive and extensible reporting facility called a Business Intelligence tool that allows users to generate reports of key aspects of construction permit approval. Examples of currently supported reports include: reports of all submissions received within a specified period, reports of all approvals within a specified period and an overdue report – a report indicating proposals that have exceeded the pre-specified time threshold in circulation.
- Profiling of ongoing constructions for inspection process – the system allows building inspectors to review ongoing constructions and decide those which make the most monitoring sense to inspect.
- Capturing of inspection data using tablets – the system allows building inspectors to go to site and capture inspection data via tablets. Photos of key aspects of the construction can also be uploaded during such inspections. One important feature of this system is that in areas where there is no connectivity the inspector is still able to fill out the relevant data and later when connectivity resumes, the inspector will be able to send the information to the relevant departments.
- Support for the enforcement process – the system allows enforcement officers to record key information on the enforcement process e.g. ongoing court proceedings and their outcomes.
- Archiving of data – the system archives all data submitted to or created using it. This will provide a valuable resource to people seeking information on construction related issues in the city.
Regardless of the catalyst for change, electronic permitting can provide a broad range of benefits, including
Key Benefits to the County of Kiambu
- Better Communication - enhanced communication between customer and County staff at various stages of the building permit application submission, review and approval processes will in the long run produce higher quality plan submissions and reviews, permit applications, and exceptional customer service.
- Improved Speeds of Permit Issuance – the automated system is expected to reduce the amount of time needed to review and approve a building proposal with a multiplier effect in the economy. Studies have shown that accelerating permit approvals could increase construction spending and revenues. This will be through perks like simultaneous review and commenting by all stakeholders and reduced need to come to the County to deliver physical plans and related documents.
- Increased Transparency – applicants of building proposals will be able to monitor the status of their proposals by accessing the online system. In addition to this, the system will notify applicants via SMS and email whenever their proposals complete key milestones during approval.
- Profiling of Architects, Physical Planners & Engineers – property developers and other interested parties will be able to request for information on the number of successfully completed projects that an architect, physical planner and engineer has undertaken. This way they will be able to identify a large array of professionals in the industry who see development projects to successful completion.
- Access To Information – the e-DAMS administration system has a number of features that allow the dissemination of information relevant to construction permits. These features include news items, downloadable files and frequently asked questions. These features shall avail to the architectural fraternity information relevant to their work; this shall include zoning guidelines and bylaws that affect specific areas in the city. With such information available online, it is expected that the number of calls or visits that architects have to make to the County in the course of their work shall reduce.
Benefits to other Stakeholders
- Improved report generation – e-DAMS provides for flexible reporting capabilities that document the volume of work completed and the revenue generated by the department. This is achieved through the business intelligence tool embedded in the system that also allows for any other customised reports required by the County.
- Increased Efficiencies – the system shall introduce far-reaching efficiencies in the administration of construction permits. An example of this will be the simultaneous review of building proposals by reviewers. In the current manual system, physical plans move from section to section in the county– undergoing review and commenting at each section. The electronic system will enable all sections to review building proposals simultaneously – consequently reducing the approval time.
- Fostering Good Practices in the Industry – the system is targeted at registered architects. In addition, the system will be able to display information on the successes of each architect. In the long run, it is expected that architects shall endeavour to build good profiles in the system by seeing their projects to successful and lawful completion. The effect of this is expected to be an industry that is incentivized to adhere only to good and lawful practices.
- Improved Inspection Processes – the system through an inspection application will allow inspection officers at the County to generate reports on ongoing constructions and profile them according to risk. This way, inspections can be directed to where the need is greatest – consequently resulting in higher compliance with laws governing construction. The system will also allow inspection officers to input inspection data into the system at the construction site via tablets – this will result in proper recording of inspection outcomes. Inspectors will be able to type out their comments even when there is no connection and later upload that information in the system when the network is available.
- Management Oversight – the management oversight on construction permit administration shall increase through the various reports that can be configured into the CP administration system. This way, section heads shall be able to monitor the volumes processed by their staff and any bottlenecks arising should be quickly identified and dealt with. This leads to more efficient use of staff time and less duplication of effort and better internal management tools for gauging department efficiency and spotting problems.
- Researchers & Academic Fraternity – the system will maintain in an archive all building proposals submitted to it and their eventual outcome. Using such data it will be possible for researchers and other stakeholders to obtain various statistics on the construction industry in the city and consequently in the country.
- Enhanced Public Safety – due to increased compliance in the industry through the adherence to good and lawful practices supported by the system, the public safety influenced by buildings is expected to be enhanced. For example, buildings complying with the outlined fire protection by-laws are less likely to result in loss of life during a fire outbreak.
Proposal submission by architects, planners and engineers
Architects/Planners/Engineers can upload their development proposals
Digital Payments – Applicants can be able to pay using digital money using County Pro a payment platform by Kiambu county. The fees to be charged are automatically generated by the system according to the prevailing county finance act thus ensuring integrity in accordance with the stipulated fees.