Though software system to grant building permit was made mandatory

The computerisation of building permit processing in local bodies, implemented in 2010 to reduce the bottlenecks and corruption which were part and parcel of the manual system, is yet to take off in the zonal offices of the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation. While the system is working without any major glitches in the main office, the applications are still handled manually in the 11 zonal offices.

A Government Order issued on April 10 this year had mandated the use of the software system to process building permit applications in all local self-government institutions to ‘increase efficiency and transparency.’

When The Hindu contacted various zonal offices to check whether the system has been implemented there, the responses ranged from ‘the system is yet to be implemented’ to ‘problems of connectivity.’ All except one of the nine zonal offices which responded to the calls said that applications were being handled manually. The one zonal office where the system was implemented said the system had errors and was hard to use when there were too many applicants. “The software has anomalies and throws up errors sometimes. Sometimes there are printer errors. Connectivity to main office is also a problem,” said the zonal official.

Computers installed

But as per the records at the main office, the requisite computer systems were installed at all these zonal offices and the officers in charge had signed on, attesting to the implementation of the system in their offices.

The online permit system at these offices does not need an Internet connection, but only a Virtual Private Network (VPN), to connect to the main office.

Corporation sources said that even in offices where the system was working, a section of the officials and architects was running a campaign to malign the online system as it rejected any plan which did not meet the standards.

“Some of the plans that are submitted violate every rule, from the area around the house to height. These will automatically be rejected if all the operations are done online. In such cases, some officials in collusion with architects say that the system is showing an error and the permit is given manually,” said the source.

Inspections of the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau had, in 2011, found that certain Corporation officials ignored building permit applications filed online to seek illegal gratification from the applicants directly or through their architects, draftsmen or contractors. Such elements deliberately complicated the simple process of obtaining building permits to make money from applicants through a well entrenched network of middlemen.

There have also been cases of rejection due to erroneous submission of plans. As per the requirement, all building items such as proposed plot and proposed work should be drawn on different layers. “They sometimes draw more than one item on the same layer, thus causing the height to be shown wrongly. Such plans will be rejected. But in the end, the blame for this too falls on the software,” said the source.

Instructions given

Meanwhile, the new Corporation Secretary, S. Venkatesapathy, has given strict instructions to implement the system in all the zonal offices at the earliest. In a meeting convened last week, he said that connectivity of the zonal offices to the main office should be ensured so that information on building permits granted by them were available by the end of the day.