In a bid to slash red tape, the Western Cape Government has partnered with municipalities to introduce a series of initiatives which have reduced approval times for building plans and shifted more applications processes online.
This morning (29 June 2015), Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, together with his Red Tape Reduction Unit, provided a status update on our quest to reduce red tape in municipalities.
The Municipal Red Tape Reduction Project was launched in the 2012/13 financial year.
Minister Winde explained: “Our first step was to conduct business surveys with local companies to identify their biggest red tape concerns. This was followed by the development of action plans to deal with the issues they raised. Workshops were held with municipal officials and local businesses to discuss the joint implementation of the proposed action plans.”
The interventions resulting from this initiative include:
City of Cape Town
Research commissioned by the unit in 2011 identified delays in building plan approval as a key concern for businesses. Coupled with the city’s own initiatives, the electronic building plan system was introduced. Close to half of all building plans received in the city are now being submitted electronically.
The municipality embarked on a drive to streamline applications for business licences and building plans.
As a result, business licence approval was reduced from three weeks to five days.
The waiting time for building plan approval was cut from 30 days to 12 days.
In response to red-tape concerns from suppliers, the municipality implemented an electronic system for suppliers of municipal goods and services.
To improve processes in development planning, the municipality developed a bulk infrastructure levy policy.
The municipality improved its internal systems, reducing building plan approvals from 20 days to 12 days.
The Red Tape Unit facilitated an agreement between the municipality and the Small Enterprise Development Agency. This agreement will see SEDA visiting the town to provide business support services to residents when needed, a service which had previously not been available.
The municipality elevated its Client Services Division to the Municipal Manager’s office, which has streamlined queries and complaints from residents. There are also plans to develop a citizen service charter, another recommendation which came from the Municipal Red Tape project.
The municipality committed to improving property development application processes. This included giving access to a database of Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning officials.
Businesses stated that SARS visited the town twice a month and that they would have to travel to George for assistance with tax matters in between.
The municipality engaged with SARS to conduct ad hoc visits to the town, if demand is proven. Discussions include the possibility of instituting a local SARS office in the Thusong centre within two years.
The municipality is working towards implementing systems to reduce red tape in the property development process.
Interventions in George included the establishment of a dedicated red tape desk for businesses.
Blockages in the procurement process were highlighted and the municipality committed to investigate the possibility of regular bid specification meetings.
The municipality also implemented an electronic informal trade permit application process. This system provides a trader history and links renewals to trader profiles. Traders are also able to track the status of their applications.
The red tape reduction projects in Bitou included the implementation of regular meetings with businesses to discuss matters relating to commercial property rates and procurement opportunities.
The municipality and the Red Tape unit also agreed on a new, improved system for commenting on liquor licence applications.
The municipality is committed to improving its supply chain process and is investigating using external databases, such as the Western Cape Supplier Database.
The municipality is working towards piloting an improved system for building plan approvals. In addition, officials in Matzikama will host annual meetings with the local business chamber to include business feedback into new systems.
Minister Winde said the interventions were an excellent example of the municipalities’ commitment to reducing red tape to grow the local economy.
In addition, Minister Winde also provided feedback on the Red Tape Unit’s Biz Challenge.
The Biz Challenge is a special programme which seeks to remove blockages in the issuing of licences and permits for events, an important contributor to our economy.
“Many of the comments asked for the development of a ‘how to’ booklet to be placed on the relevant municipality’s website. The City of Cape Town already has this in place. There were also several requests for electronic submissions of applications and a tracking system to monitor the status of an application. Businesses also suggested a dedicated helpline to deal with enquiries.”
Minister Winde said the Red Tape team is reviewing all comments and will design solutions to resolve blockages in the systems.
“My number one priority is to make it easier to do business in our province by reducing red tape. Businesses have capital and are eager to invest. My job, working with national and local spheres, is to get them to stop sitting on their cash by making the Western Cape an investor-friendly environment”.