The delay in the issuance of construction permits and approval of modifications by the City of Kigali is of major concern among engineers and architects as the delay hampers their projects.
The three districts in the city issue construction permits through a web-based software application known as the electronic Building Permit Management System. The system allows engineers and architects to apply for the permits online.
The online system was introduced to address delays and speed up the process of acquiring construction permits, inspection and occupancy certificates.
“We applied for a permit in January to make slight modifications to the construction project, but even upto May officials from Kigali City were yet to respond. So we went on with the modifications,” said one engineer who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity.
Engineers and architects say a new application for a construction permit takes longer than expected and so does applying for simple modifications on an already approved plan.
“We are left with no option but to proceed with construction because projects are being delayed,” said the engineer. He however added that it is risky because city authorities demolish the constructions when they find out, which adds to the losses.
City of Kigali had initially said that under the electronic Building Permit Management System, it would only take three weeks to process a filed application.
However engineers and architects who spoke to Rwanda Today said that sometimes it takes months to get feedback on an application.
As a result, many opt to bypass the bureaucratic process and start working on the modifications on construction projects, risking penalties in millions of francs and possible revocation of the license if caught.
Rene Bazitunga of Exalto Engineering and Supply Solutions Ltd said most approved construction projects tend to encounter modifications based on the construction site, but these delay the project even further due to approvals taking time to be processed.
“We recently had to make some changes on a construction site, where a staircase needed to be moved from the left side of the building to the right side.
However, because we had a deadline given by the client, it was not possible to apply for modifications and wait for the long approval process.
“We went ahead and made the changes and accepted to pay the Rwf2.5 million ($2,950) fine, rather than breach the contract,” said Mr Bazitunga.
Several engineers and architects shared similar experiences where they have had to contravene regulations and work on modifications without waiting for approvals.
According to the director of Urban Planning and Construction One Stop Centre in the City of Kigali, Fred Mugisha, the delays are blamed on both the size of the projects and the number of filed applications to be processed.
“A big project can take one month to be processed, and we sometimes have over 500 submitted proposals for processing,” said Mr Mugisha, adding that, “We don’t process modification applications differently, we assess approvals based on chronological order.”
However, Mr Mugisha said sometimes the delays are caused by architects who take long to make the recommended modifications or don’t follow the guidelines given by city technicians.
Kigali city officials said that depending on the size of the project, the law allows city technicians to add an extra three days on the prescribed 21 days to allow them more time to review the project.
“Some people who file modification applications expect to have a response in one day, but that is impossible because we usually have over 300 filed applications to deal with on the same desk,” said Mr Mugisha.
Officials from the City of Kigali said renewing the occupation permit takes one day while processing a new occupation permit takes three days. However, engineers and architects say these timelines are not adhered to.