Lawmaking for speedy processing of planning and development applications delayed

Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal during his contribution to the debate of Budget 2023 (Photo: DPI/January 23, 2023)

Currently, applications have to be made at the various local authorities, whether town council or Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), to apply for permits and make separate applications at other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Ministry of Public Works and the Guyana Fire Service.

The new law will allow for the management and implementation of the system through a small secretariat for oversight.

Legislation to give effect to the system, styled as the Planning and Development Single Window System Bill, was expected to be passed in the National Assembly on Monday.

Instead, Housing and Water Minister Collin Croal announced that following the debate, the Bill will be sent to a Special Select Committee for a “brief period.”

Croal informed the House that, along with technical staff from his Ministry, he met with seen Opposition Parliamentarians on Sunday where a number of queries were raised and amendments to the Bill proposed.

“We do intend following the debate to send the Bill for a brief period to a Special Select Committee,” Croal said. While in the Special Select Committee, MPs from both the government and opposition side of the House will be engaged in robust discussions to agree on a final draft before the Bill is returned to the National Assembly for eventual passage.

Former Minister with responsibility for Housing and Water Annette Ferguson made contributions from the Opposition benches.

“I commend you for your efforts, Honourable member and your technical team, that they sacrificed their Sunday just to meet with us.

“I wish to report to the National Assembly that the discussions were quite professional and cordial,” Ferguson said.

She said the piece of legislation was a “good Bill” and the Opposition intends to support it.

“… but we do have concerns and proposed amendments,” she added.

Ferguson believes this is a model to emulate when dealing with other Bills of importance.

A $202.9 million contract for the development and implementation of the information technology solution for the single window system was signed in December 2022 between the Central Housing and Planning Authority and Global Services – a consortium including a local company and companies from the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

Ferguson believes this engagement between the government and the opposition at the parliamentary level should have taken place before the contract was signed.

Minister within the Ministry of Housing and Water Susan Rodgrigues provided some details on the opposition’s “last hour” proposed amendments and said she struggled to make sense of the amendments even as she questioned the consultative process that led to the suggestions.

Among the proposed amendments is for the Director of the Single Window Unit to be appointed by the Parliamentary Committee of Appointments, for the unit to be staffed through appointments by the Public Service Commission and for the Planning Oversight Committee to have a nominee from the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.

Rodrigues believes these proposed amendments defeat the purpose of the Bill which is intended to remove political control.

“It is cumbersome and unhelpful to the functioning of the system.

“It is an attempt to politicise the process and more importantl they want to frustrate the process,” Minister Rodrigues said.