Македонски Shqip English

Davit Churghulia

Transparency of Construction Permit Issuing Procedure - Overview of Legislation and Practice on the Example of Georgia

Georgia has implemented number of successful reforms over the past two decades. The implemented or ongoing reforms became a major creator of international image of the country, facilitating the presence of Georgia among the leading countries in the region. The remarkable example of the mentioned is the World Bank's 2018 rating, which states that the country takes the sixth position in the world on its ease of doing business.[1]

 The significant achievements of the reforms implemented in Georgia are development of many fields and their approximation with modern standards. One of the most prominent places among such progressive destinations is construction activities. That is why the process of renewing and improving the legislative acts regulating the construction sphere is of particular importance.

When it comes to building legislation, its Europeanization, improvement and development,  it will necessarily include the issues related to issuing construction permits - the main institute of construction law and transparency of its procedure. One of the most important issues in this regard, which requires more efficiency, is the issue of fair conduction of the construction permit process, involvement of all interested persons or authorized entities in the appropriate administrative proceeding according to the complexity of the acceptable resolution, possibility of realizing the rights of the participants. To the end, all the mentioned is directed towards transparency and lawfulness of the issuance of the construction permit.

For a complete presentation of the issue, it is necessary to have a brief analysis of the reforms implemented in this direction. However, this is a continuous process and implemented reform is a conditional concept in this case. In fact, along with the development of the construction sector, it is necessary for the legislation regulating this specific field to achieve the appropriate level in order to create a successful model for the development of legislation and its development, which will be the basis for sustainable development of the country.

Georgia's current legislation, which regulates the issuance of construction permits, in the main line is based on European values ​​and principles,[2] that are the cornerstone of a democratic state. The Georgian legislation is consistent with the international legal acts and the supreme law of the country - the Constitution of Georgia.

According to the applicable legislation of Georgia, the rule and terms of issuing a construction permit are regulated by the Law of Georgia on “Licenses and Permits”, as well as the Decree #57 of March 24, 2009 of the Government of Georgia on "Rules of Issuance of Construction Permit and Permit Conditions". However, it is important to note one significant novelty, in particular on July 20, 2018 the “Georgian Space Planning, Architectural and Construction Activity Code” was adopted and it will be launched from June 3, 2019. The adoption of the mentioned Code, the uniform standard act has become a crown of legislative reform, and it further enhances the process of approximating this sphere to the European standards.

            All of these legislative acts serve the following principles:

  • Life and health safety;
  • Ensuring safe environment;
  • Protection and maintenance of cultural heritage;
  • Protection and realization of ownership rights;
  • Publicity
  • Principle of Responsibility.

As seen above, the legislation regulating the construction permit issuance is based on universally recognized principles and fundamental human rights. In practical terms, however, their realization is a major challenge. It is particularly noteworthy the issues such as lawfulness of the activities of the issuing authorities, complete, objective and comprehensive study of the issues raised in the permit issuance process, protection of the rights of all the persons, who may become a subject to a direct or indirect form of damage by the decision made or may be faced such danger. Therefore, the main objective of this field (construction sector) is to ensure maximum transparency of the issuance of permit documentation and the protection of lawfulness. As long as these issues are to be discussed in details, a brief overview of the permit issuance process is necessary.

Under the applicable legislation of Georgia, construction permit is a permit of a special hierarchy and is issued in three stages: I stage - establishment of urban construction conditions (approval of the terms of use of a land plot for construction), II stage - agreement of the architectural-construction project, III stage - issuing construction permit.[3] As regards the permit issuing authorities, this function is granted to local self-government bodies (City Hall, Municipality). However, there are exceptional cases, namely, industrial facilities of strategic designation, such as metro, aerodrome, harbors, tunnels, etc. The permits for these facilities are issued by the relevant structural unit of the executive body of the country.

            The activation of construction activities in Georgia in recent years is associated with the growth of investments. The construction industry has become attractive both for local business operators and foreign companies. According to the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, in 2008-2018, the number of direct foreign investments in the construction sector amounted to 1 billion 445.7 million US dollars[4]. Consequently, the need to meet the increased demands raised the necessity of improvement of the legislation and implementation of modern standards. That is why the root reform was undertaken in this direction and completely innovative approaches were introduced. First of all, the whole process of issuing construction permits has become electronic.

The introduction of this model began with the Tbilisi City Hall, which created the electronic platform was created in 2011, introduced online services and as a result, all the procedures related to construction permits became flexible and public for any interested person. This was naturally preceded by the adoption of new legislative acts and significant updates of existing acts, as well as reforming of relevant service(s) and retraining of individuals employed there. Following successful implementation of this model, similar electronic web pages were created in other big cities of Georgia - Kutaisi (2016) and Batumi (2017).

            With the digitalization of the procedures for issuing the construction permit, a complete basis was created in order to make all the documents submitted to the concerned person public. The mechanism of publicity of information on the planned construction, such as the obligation of placing the information banner on the visible location of the construction plot before the construction permit, has been regulated on a legislative level.[5]

Deployment of the documents necessary for permit issuing authority to make decision on the electronic platform has minimized the volume of inquiry of the design documentation, submitted to the administrative body by a construction customer in a material form (construction project planning, architectural and constructional part); the bureaucracy has been reduced to the minimum; accelerated services have been improved and introduced at the legislative level, thereby decreasing the risks of corruption related to the timing of the issue, the involvement of citizens in the administrative process has been increased, which ultimately promotes the publicity of the process. All of the above achievements have been positively reflected on the construction sector.

            However, the challenges and problematic issues are still remained in this direction. In this regard, the main challenge is the lack of full involvement of a concerned person in the process of issuing the construction permit. This is related to the protection of the rights of owners of the neighboring property of planned construction. In particular, there is a danger of a possible restriction of full realization of the property rights of the neighboring property owner. Transparency of the permit issuance process cannot guarantee the minimization of the risks and elimination of a damage that may be incurred to the property owner.

            Though the openness of the process is a guarantee that the interested person has information about the design documentation, the presumable function of the planned construction, its dimensions, its location, the use of the land plot and the mentioned should be obviously considered to be the achievement, but more work in this direction is required both in legislative and practical context. The main outcome to be achieved should be not only the formal transparency of the process, but the examination of all the information on the planned construction in appropriate manner. Finally, the issue of a construction permit must be based on the principle of legality and publicity, as well as the protection of universally recognized rights. There is a lot more work in this direction.

Georgia's course, the pursuit of development and implementation of the obligations undertaken under the EU Association Agreement[6], as well as sharing the experience of European countries, along with other important issues will hopefully bring positive changes to the construction sector, which will contribute to the effective protection of rights of the persons involved in the construction activities or related to it on the one hand and the irreversible and sustainable development of the country on the other hand.

 

[1] See: http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings

[2] See details: K. Kalichava, Europäisierung des georgischen Verwaltungsrechts – Die Transformation des modernen georgischen Verwaltungsrechts, DÖV, 2018, 389 ff.

[3] Decree #57 of 2009 of the GoG on “Rules of Issuance of Construction Permit and Permit Conditions”. Article 19, 27.03.2009.

[4] http://www.geostat.ge/index.php?action=page&p_id=2231&lang=eng

[5] Decree #57 of 2009 of the GoG on “Rules of Issuance of Construction Permit and Permit Conditions”. Article 39-40, 27.03.2009.

[6] According to the Georgia and EU Association Agreement of June 27, 2014, Georgia, along with other obligations has undertaken the obligation to cooperate with the EU in reforming the legislation and improving the state services

Davit Churghulia

Deputy Head

Tbilisi city hall

Georgia