The Planning and Development Single Window System Bill has been sent to a Special Select Committee for further review.
Though presenting the Bill for a second reading in National Assembly on Monday, Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal, said based on consultations with the Opposition, it was recommended that the Bill be sent to a Parliamentary Special Select Committee for consideration.
The Bill is intended to pave the way for the establishment of the Planning and Development Single Window System, which according to Minister Croal, will not only reduce the red tape, but modernize the process of issuing planning and building permits.
“The Bill, Mr Speaker, provides for a single-entry point and platform for the submission, processing and approval of all planning and development applications. Such applications and other related documents, can be submitted from anywhere, online, when the IT Solution is implemented,” Minister Croal said while adding that the requisite fees would be payable online once the regulatory approval has been obtained.
According to him, the single window system will result in greater predictability, less bureaucracy, greater transparency and a deduction in cost.
When brought into law, the legislation will allow for the establishment of an appeal tribunal and mechanisms to prevent duplication and overlapping of functions.
“The bill imposes an obligation on the Central Authority to consult and coordinate with identified, relevant agencies, and prepare an administrative scheme for coordination in respect of expeditious processing of planning and development applications. However, a number of key components of the system will be developed through regulations, and these include the administrative measures, relating to the use of the system, [and] the criteria for processing,” the Housing Minister detailed.
In the absence of this legislation, the Housing and Water Ministry, through the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), signed a $209.9M contract with Global Services Inc. for the development and implementation of an Information Technology Solution or the Single-Window Planning and Development System.
The Government had hoped to implement the system by June 2023, but with the Bill being sent to the Special Select Committee, its implementation is more than likely to be delayed for several months.
Opposition Members of Parliament, applauded the Housing Minister for taking the Opposition’s concerns and solutions into consideration.
MP Annette Ferguson told the House the Opposition intends to support the Bill, but it has a number of concerns.
Weighing in on the Bill, MP Amanza Walton-Desir said the Opposition supports the Bill and the necessary steps being taken to ensure greater efficiency and ease of doing business.
“Mr Speaker, the concerns that we have, however, cannot be ignored. We have to point out that this single window business, while it is relatively new to Guyana, it is not new to the rest of the world, and therefore we have the advantage of not only learning from their successes but also learning from the pitfalls that we have to guard against. And Mr Speaker, when you read and you research, you realize that there are couple of pitfalls that we have to guard against. A lack of accountability, Mr Speaker, we have to appreciate the fact that this single window can lead to a diffusion of functions, and when you diffuse functions, you create the opportunity for a lack of accountability,” MP Walton-Desir explained.
The opposition is also concerned that the Bill will reduce oversight and scrutiny in the approval process.