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One stop shop key for construction approval

By Nashon Okowa | September 7th 2019 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

There has been government rhetoric, for some time now, around formation of a one-stop shop for construction approvals. Sadly, it has just been that – empty talk. Our construction approval process, more so in Nairobi County, is one we must no longer hide from critiquing. From lack of adequate qualified professionals to outdated lengthy approval procedures, it is embarrassing, especially in 2019. Developers are the constant losers.

First, lest we forget, we do not have adequate qualified personnel at the counties to properly review submitted drawings before approvals. That is the sad reality. Constantly, people who aren’t registered architects or engineers are tasked with review of submitted drawings for approval. How does a planner purport to carry out examination of architectural or engineering drawings for approval? It’s an insult to these professions and a shame to our country. Anyway that’s our stage of play and by the grace we continue to live. Let us leave it at that for now.

Of great concern to many has been the long period it takes to get construction approvals; especially in Nairobi. Take for instance between January and March 2019, the Nairobi County development control department had only one meeting to review and issue drawings approvals.

How does it take four months to simply acquire architectural county drawings approval? And this seems to be the norm. Constantly, the online drawing submission portal is down inconveniencing many consultants and developers. Then enters the fore approval meetings. They are postponed at will and held at the convenience of the committee. It’s akin to running a personal company board meeting.

But if even that seem a higher bar. Lately, the committee hasn’t held an approval meeting for over a month now. It is for your guess the pain developers are experiencing. Unacceptable.

With the delay in getting architectural drawings approvals comes the delay in obtaining Nema approval too which is normally issued after architectural approval. And by law, for a project, you will have to wait for 21 days to get your Nema approval out if you are lucky and well connected.

To date I’m short in understanding why Nema cannot independently review developments parallel to other approval processes without waiting for county approved drawings. Why not do so with a caveat, if necessary, to save time? And considering that not much attention, is given during country drawings approvals.

Notwithstanding the hell you may experience in getting architectural drawings, once again the developer must deal with lodging of engineering drawings –structural and civil. On paper this is supposed to be a smooth process considering that architectural drawings have already been approved. But again the challenges of online portal and delay committee meetings welcomes your quest to develop.

It’s a wonder why the county cannot allow submission of both architectural and structural drawings at the same time to just shorten this headache. Even if it is eating, it can be done once.

National Construction Authority approval process is the most efficient in my view. With all necessary documentation, your project can be licensed within a few days. If your project is near an airport or water catchment area then more approvals are needed from Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and Water Resource Management Authority. Unbelievably, it takes a minimum five to six months to obtain approvals in this city and begin construction if you have a good pocket. Ridiculous! Right?

How does Nairobi city constantly have the online drawings submission portal down? Why do approvals depend on committee comfort meetings? Can’t we make it mandatory that they sit twice a month to review approvals? Let’s stop the rhetoric and create a one stop construction approval shop. It is unacceptable in 2019 to take this long to obtain approvals. Save our industry this hustle. It has been done; it can be done.

- The writer is chairman of Association of Construction Managers of Kenya. [email protected]      


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