The COVID-19 pandemic has assisted the Town & Country Planning Department in becoming almost completely contactless, with a number of e-services being implemented over the last few months.
Chief Planner Gregory Adams said when he arrived at the department nearly eight years ago, the agency was testing the application-tracking software needed to facilitate e-services.
That software is finally being used in a number of the department’s recently-implemented online services.
“We ran some data testing with it (the software) with a few architects and some surveyors just to make sure it worked and to get their feedback. It was well received but the only problem with it then was why would we submit electronically if we still have to walk in a cash or a cheque payment to you,” Adams explained during a live virtual forum on Tuesday night.
“COVID kind of gave us that kick that forced us to make it happen … It really forced us in a direction that I think long term we’ll be glad that we’ve been gone to,” he added.
Online submission of documents and e-stamps
With the recent merging of Town & Country Planning, the Building Authority, and the Electrical Inspection Unit, Adams said the ability to submit documents online are among the new e-services being offered.
He said persons can submit their drawing applications and all other documents via email.
“We’ve even gone so far as to develop all of the manual stamps that we have. We’ve created electronic stamps that we can stamp the PDF drawings as well. So once we grant approval, we stamp the drawing electronically and email them back to the applicants,” he said.
“Even on the building inspection side, we have also transitioned all of their submittals to an electronic process, their stamping is done electronically as well. And yesterday for the first time, we’ve issued an electronic final inspection certificate for an electrical inspection,” Adams added.
The Chief Planner also said e-payments are being prioritised. He said this has been the preferred option with a number of residents.
“Treasury has been gracious to the departments to allow us to accept credit card payments using the credit card authorisation form which we email to the applicants and they complete it. We give them the application fee so they can fill in all the relevant information, we process it and send them a receipt electronically,” he explained.
Positive feedback from the public
Meanwhile, Adams also said the e-service initiatives have been receiving a lot of positive reviews from members of the public.
“It’s been almost a dream where people have been saying to us. I can’t imagine what we have been doing before this — all the money that they would spend printing these huge sheets of stacks and stacks of paper. So it’s really in just a short space of time revolutionise the way we offer our services,” he stated.
The chief planner further said the department is making a few exceptions to accommodate in-person payments. He said the measure is to give persons enough time to adjust and get on board with the department’s transition.
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