eConstructionPermitting in Serbia
eConstructionPermitting System in Serbia
A Reform Taken by Storm
Dusan Vasiljevic, Deputy Chief of Party on the USAID Business Enabling Project in Serbia implemented by the Cardno Emerging Markets Ltd
The World Bank’s Doing Business releases report ranking Serbia as 186th world economy in the “Getting Construction Permit” category. It took 289 days for an investor to obtain a construction permit and register ownerships of a fairly simple construction. An investor needed to deal with up to 20 public sector entity to successfully complete the procedures – each interaction being a small permitting process by itself.
Serbia legislated construction permitting reform, providing for the introduction of the a) One Stop Shop principle and b) the e-ConstructionPermitting System.
One Stop Shops launched in more than 170 local governments. One Stop Shops, instead of investors, begin acting as “couriers” between public agencies in the construction permitting procedures.
e-ConstructionPermitting System is launched. Simultaneously for all permitting bodies. Acceptance of the paper-form applications is not an option any longer. Issuance of paper documents is virtually not possible. The system brings together an army of applicants, 170 One Stop Shops and hundreds of public agencies and enterprises with a role in the construction permitting procedure.
Before and after the launch of the e-ConstructionPermitting System, an extensive training program was implemented, covering thousands of public officials and creating a cadre of “super-users” in each of the public sector entities involved.
Public outreach campaign was implemented, to inform private sector entities on the new system.
Web site dedicated to the construction permits reform was launched, featuring regulations, instructions, video materials and tutorials for implementation of the reform. Number of visits is measured in hundreds of thousands.
Call center was set up, receiving thousands of phone calls, e-mail and web site inquiries, preparing answers, checking them with the line ministry and feeding the authorized responses to callers.
Only in 2016, as many as 63.016 applications were filed through the e-ConstructionPermitting System. 59,712 applications were processed (95%), of that 70% positively.
Serbia improved from the 186th position on the Doing Business list released in 2014 to 36th position on the edition from 2016. According to that survey, number of days required to get a construction permit decreased from 289 to 156 day. The difference of 133 days per a construction permits, multiplied with more than 12,000 permits issued in 2016 only, amounts to more than 1.6 million days saved for investors.
Thousands of public sector officials and private sector actors obtain electronic signatures for the first time, to be able to engage in construction permitting procedures.
Number of construction permits issued in 2015, after the introduction of the One Stop Shops, increased by 36% compared to the 2014. Number of construction permits issued in 2016 is by 21% higher than in 2015 and even better than in previously best year on the record (2007) – by almost 16%.
Construction industry is for the last two year fastest growing industry in Serbia. Its share of around 4% of GDP before the reform has increased to around 6% of GDP in 2016.
Streamlined construction permitting has contributed to the reduction of illegal constructions.
Key features of Serbia’s e-ConstructionPermitting System approach and some lessons learned
- If it were optional, use of the e-Permitting system would have been systematically obstructed. Past experience teaches us that permitting officials would have been advising applicants that it would be “quicker and more efficient” for them to avoid One Stop Shops and e-Permitting system and approach individual permitting agencies directly.
- We cannot wait until everyone is fully prepared. Make the use of eGovernment mandatory as soon as vast majority is ready; later on, force “laggards” into the system or, better yet, have their constituencies (elected officials or citizens) demand of them to become a part of the system.
- Being e-Illiterate is not a human right to be protected. Good governance is. Paper-form submissions are not allowed on the account of enabling “our less skilled citizens” to apply. Private sector entities (architecture bureaus) or One Stop Shops can assist citizens who cannot apply by themselves
- e-Permitting system has to be simple for investors to use and for public officials to administer. No local installations are needed. Whoever can use Facebook must be able to use e-Permitting system. Anything more sophisticated than that would be too difficult to implement effectively.
- Not everyone has to perform flawless at the beginning for the introduction of the new system to be successful. It is enough that vast majority performs at the satisfactory level. From there on, it is enough to promote stellar performers and occasionally name and shame laggers for the system to improve.
- Communication matters. People like to be part of a success; this project gave public officials that feeling of acknowledgment that they are mostly deprived of.
- Partnerships matter. The whole reform was conceptualized by the USAID Business Enabling Project (USAID BEP); it was legislated after the joint drafting efforts by the Government of Serbia, USAID BEP and the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED); line ministry and the national association of local government helped train local governments for introduction of the One Stop Shops; USAID project provided functional specification of the e-Permitting system; NALED, with funding from the German GIZ, led the process of the software development – after it was developed, NALED and GIZ transferred ownership of the software to the Government; the USAID BEP, and the World Bank in particular, provided funds for training; some other partners joined later on.
- ‘Nothing succeeds like success’ – as we speak, this reform is being spilled over to other segments of the public administration: most immediate goal being reform of the real estate cadaster procedures.
- The reform is not safe until the Point of No Return is reached. Point of No Return is reached only when regression to the “old ways” is practically impossible or, in political terms, prohibitively expensive.
Who is the Conference for?
Government decision makers and strategists from countries implementing national e-Governance strategies,
Donor organisations supporting development of open, transparent and efficient governance practices via IT solutions
Companies developing e-Governance applications and assisting governments with their implementation