Ho Chi Minh City’s introduction of an online system for citizens to submit applications for construction permits online is proving as time-consuming as the traditional in-person method.
A recent guideline by the administration of Ho Chi Minh City required its districts provide citizens with the option to submit applications for construction permits via the Internet.
The guideline stated that district-level administrations were to issue the permits to valid housing projects within 15 days of receiving their digitally submitted applications.
Many of the city’s districts began providing the service by the end of last year, though public response to what should have been a positive change has been underwhelming, largely due to multiple discouraging obstacles users face while using the online platform.
The human factor
In February, N.V.T. submitted an online application for a construction permit on land he owns in District 8, Ho Chi Minh City.
After sending scanned copies of the required papers via the online platform, T. arranged a meeting with an urban management official four days later to examine the piece of land.
After the inspection, T. was told by the official that the plan for his house was not in accordance with the overall planning of the area, and that he would have to visit the district’s urban management office to receive his papers for adjustments.
After two more trips to the office, T. still found that he was unable to follow the requirements and had to hire a consulting firm to redraw the entire house plan.
With the new plan in hand, T. submitted the papers in person and his construction permit was finally approved.
“It took me two months from start to finish,” T. said.
According to T., authorities from District 8 require that online applications be submitted in both digital and physical forms, making the purpose of moving administrative procedures online somewhat pointless.
In addition, he said, adjustments to the papers can only be made in person, making the online procedure as time-consuming as the traditional service.
H., another resident in District 8, asserted that the online platform is only convenient for those who have complete and valid papers.
Any mistake in the application results in lots of red tape and is comparable to physical submission of the paperwork, H. said.
The other side of the coin
According to the District 8 administration, only 149 out of 1,600 construction permits in the district have been issued digitally since last August, when it first implemented online public services.
Similar statistics have been reported in other districts of the southern metropolis, with the number of digital applications for construction permits accounting for no more than ten percent of all submissions.
An official from the District 8 People’s Committee said the bottleneck of the online procedure lies in rectifying incorrectly drawn house plans.
According to the official, giving instructions to applicants to adjust their plans via the internet has proved ineffective, as the citizens often misunderstand the explanations.
To spare themselves the burden, many citizens have opted for the physical submission of papers instead, he said.
“For complete applications with no mistakes, it takes no more than 15 days for the construction permit to be issued,“ the official said. “It’s a different story when it comes to making corrections to the papers.”
Meanwhile, according to the municipal Department of Construction, the existence of so many mistakes in the house plans submitted by citizens is largely due to a lack of transparency in publishing information regarding urban planning in the districts.
“It is extremely challenging even for consulting firms to draw correct house plans if the public continues to be kept in the dark about planning information,” an official from the Department of Construction asserted.
If citizens were to know what is allowed or not allowed to be built on their land, it would be almost impossible to make mistakes, he said.