By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The GOVERNMENT is pursuing an electronic platform to process building permit applications, a Cabinet minister said yesterday, in a bid to “tremendously” speed up approvals.
Desmond Bannister, pictured, minister of works, acknowledged private sector complaints over the length of time it takes to obtain building permits when he addressed the Bahamas Engineers, Architects & Allied Professionals (BEAAP) forum.
Sonia Brown, chairwoman of the Bahamas Engineers, Architects & Allied Professionals (BEAAP) told Tribune Business: “Why should it take 90 days to get a single dwelling house or a basic office building approved? We believe that once you have properly licensed persons in place signing off, there should be a means to accelerate those approvals.
“We have to realise that what we do in our industry affects the economy. Construction is really important and so, for example, it could be a $1m or $10m project. There are jobs associated with that project, the construction jobs and the jobs associated with the project itself. The more these projects get delayed in government agencies, the more the benefit to the economy is delayed. We need to have more transparency over approvals process.”
Mr Bannister responded by reaffirming the Minnis administration’s commitment to improving the ease of doing business, and pledged: “Over the next year you are going to see one central database that is going to make it a lot easier with respect to that.”
To reduce the time involved with reviewing building permit applications, Mr Bannister said an electronic platform linking all relevant government agencies involved in the process is being pursued.
“That, we envisage, is going to impact the processing time tremendously,” he added. “Some of the inconveniences are going to be removed. I have heard the concerns about delays. We are going to create more transparency.” This, Mr Bannister said, will benefit Bahamian professionals, their clients and the foreign direct investment (FDI) process, while also boosting construction and real estate activity.
The minister added that the Buildings Control Division had also completed its draft policy for a third-party inspection process. “The benefits of that we expect would be two-fold,” he said. “First, it is going to provide economic opportunities for professionals. It is also going to ease the burden on the Buildings Control Division.”
Meanwhile, Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) members this week signed up for the Government’s e-procurement and suppliers registry during their monthly meeting on Wednesday.
The registry is designed to make government procurement, and the related bidding processes, more transparent and efficient, and ensure there is fairness so that all parties have an opportunity.
Sumayyah Cargill, from the Ministry of Finance, said the registry was proof that the Government is moving towards a modern procurement framework.
She added that with the passage of the Public Procurement Act, the tender process will be going digital and all procurement opportunities will be posted with full transparency. “If one person sends a message to the buyer through the system, everyone receives a copy of the answer,” Ms Cargill said.