THE Maseru City Council (MCC) is in the process of streamlining its construction permit procedures to ease doing business and attract investment.
According to Maseru City Council (MCC) spokesperson, Lintle Bless, the process of setting up an automated system for the administration of construction permits was at an advanced stage.
She said the requisite infrastructural, institutional and legal processes were already in place, with the system set to be launched before year’s end.
“The necessary equipment has already been acquired, and the personnel who will be making use of the system are currently undergoing the necessary training,” Ms Bless said.
“All in all, everything is basically in place, and we are hoping the system will go live before the end of this year.”
She said under the new framework, all the different procedures involved in applying for a construction permit would be brought together in an automated system.
The reforms are being undertaken with the support of the Second Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP II) under the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
According to PSCEDP II the reform process should streamline the construction permit system within the MCC by automating the document workflow, digitising the back-office functions of MCC and digitising the archives in order to create an automated, predictable and transparent system, thus reducing time, cost and regulatory burden for the private sector.
“We are going to create a virtual one-stop shop facility where an applicant’s information will be relayed to the different departments in a computerised system. This, therefore, means the length of the process of obtaining the permit would be greatly reduced,” said Ms Bless.
“The streamlining of permits will encourage more foreign investors to set up businesses here.”
In her address during the official opening of the new Maseru Toyota premises early this month, MCC Town Clerk Mantai Phaila said, when functional, the automated system would issue a construction permit within 14 days.
Currently, the process can take over six months due to numerous procedures that span across a number of government departments. To obtain a construction permit, businesses have to undergo 11 procedures which include hiring an environmental specialist to conduct an environmental impact study, obtaining an environmental impact assessment from the National Environment Secretariat, requesting and obtaining a construction guarantee from a commercial bank, submitting building plans and diagrams and obtaining approval from MCC.
It also entails requesting and obtaining a building permit from the MCC, receiving on-site pre-approval inspection by the council, requesting water connection services from the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO), on-site inspection by WASCO, getting connected to water services, requesting and receiving the final inspection from MCC and finally obtaining the permit from MCC.
The procedures in the issuance of construction permits are some of the factors considered by the World Bank’ Doing Business rating in determining countries’ business climates.
The latest Doing Business report ranks Lesotho at position 172 out of 189 countries under review in terms of obtaining a construction permit. The report says the process takes about 179 days to complete in Lesotho.