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City Hall launches QR code to speed up building approvals

Developers and property owners in Nairobi will no longer be required to physically present their development plans for stamping even after approval.

This comes after Nairobi county government launched an online system for development plans that eliminates the requirement for developers to submit hard copies of their plans for stamping even after they have been approved.

Last year, players in the construction industry complained of delays in processing of construction permits by City Hall saying it was adversely affecting stakeholders by prolonging timelines of implementing projects.

However, the digital system – a QR Code system – according to Nairobi County Lands and Urban Planning CEC Charles Kerich will now significantly reduce the approval time for construction permits by removing the need for one to wait for their plans to be stamped in order to actualize their plans.

He said the code will provide a unique identification for all approved architectural and structural plans eliminating the need for a stamp on such plans with the QR Code appearing on the front page of the approved plan showing that it is genuine.

Kerich explained that before a developer is allowed to commence construction of any structure in the county, the developer must first submit a drawing and a request for approval online through the e-construction portal.

The documents will then be submitted to the technical committee which will sit and go through them to see if the building plan meet all the requirements, which if positive, then the developer is asked to pay for the approval thereafter an approval permit is then granted.

The application comes in several copies which have to be stamped one at a time with four stamps for each plan.

It is this stamping process, according to Kerich, that is time consuming and inconveniencing for most developers who have to wait although their plans have already been approved as it is the stamp that will show whether it is genuine or not.

However, with the QR code, if one wants to verify whether the plan is genuine or not they will use a smartphone to scan the code which will give details about the plan.

“The code has already been activated and the idea is to get rid of that stamping process so that once the approval has been given you download it from the system and it comes out with the QR code which can be read by a smartphone. It will give the approval details,” said Kerich.

The system comes at a time when City Hall Planning department is grappling with a backlog of approval plans after mass suspension of officials in the department and firing of the entire approvals technical committee by governor Mike Sonko.

In January, the county commenced weekly approval meetings by the technical committee to try to clear the backlog.

This was after different institutions in the building industry raised concerns about the delays in processing of the development plans.

In September last year, Kenya Institute of Planners accused the county government of failing to provide building approvals for four months.

In October, the Architectural Association of Kenya, through its President Mugure Njendu, wrote to City Hall over the same delays saying it was unnecessarily prolonging project implementation timelines.

At the time, there were 538 applications pending in the system for approval at various stages where 326 application were at the pre-agenda status and 118 applications pending payment confirmation.

Urban planning is a multi-billion shilling sub-sector and City Hall rus all approvals in the county.

In the first quarter of 2019 approvals worth Sh32.2 billion were processed but this dropped to Sh27.3 billion in the second quarter.

In terms of revenue, the county collected more than Sh1.1 billion from approval fees in 2018 but by June, 2019 only slightly more than Sh307 million had been collected.