New online system to give you a business license within a day and identify those holding it up

Integrated Business Licensing Service system to bring all regulatory bodies, 20 Dzongkhags, 4 Thromdes and agencies into one platform so that business licenses applicants don’t need to run around for clearances

For business people, big or small, one of the main headaches is getting a business license and renewing it

A visual of this example can be seen in the long lines outside the Thimphu Regional Trade Office for new licenses or renewals.

For bigger or more complicated businesses that require multiple approvals like mineral water plants, a chip factory or even a mine, people have to go from pillar to post seeking various clearances from multiple agencies which eats up time and resources and can also lead to corruption.

However, a new online Integrated Business Licensing Service system headed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and involving all 20 Dzongkhags, four thromdes, all regulatory bodies and others is working to address this issue.

Now be it a small shop you want to open or a big ferrosilicon plant, you only need visit one website and the online system will get all the clearances for you from all agencies.

Not only that, the system will monitor where the application is moving and which individual officer or agency is sitting on it and this will be part of their performance review, and they can also be held accountable.

Phase 1 operational and the site

The project has two phases and phase one is already operational whereby you can get a micro license business in 242 business areas with a Turn Around Time (TAT) of only one day.

The MoEA official said, “The idea is that you don’t have to run around. In the G2C system you have to run around and get clearances and now that has been done away with.” 

The earlier G2C system is a stand alone system where applicants have to do all the running around, furnish all the clearances, and most of the time they are not even aware whom to approach in a specific agency or what kind of clearances are required for an activity.

Another unique thing is that the new system is designed purely from a users point of view and not from the agency’s point of view.

The MoEA ran a survey before designing the system and found that the two main complaints were that the G2C system is not not user friendly and secondly they are required to make repeated visits to offices.

Other issues were slow service delivery, requirement for multiple forms, time taken to process application, responsible person not in office etc.

“This system is a single window system where we are trying to get on board all those agencies who are involved in issuing clearances, permits etc for a business license,” said the official.

When one enters the site its starts with a set of questions that will navigate the person to what they want.

The website display had been designed keeping in mind which part of the site attracts the maximum attention and so the most important things are kept there like ‘Apply Now’ and there is also a chat board for those who are stuck.

The site also has some commonly asked questions or they can use the chat board or even call the numbers given there. 

The site has a long list of businesses and if that activity is not there you can ask for it to be created there by calling the officials.

When you enter your CID card number the system will check whether you are a civil servant or not from the RCSC data base and if you are then you cannot proceed further. It will also do a security clearance check.

You can apply for others too as long as you know their CID card number.

The license is generated online which can be printed.

“Until now we have been working for the system but now we want the system to work for us,” said the official.

The authorizer or official will see which application is pending and for micro licenses like shops, restaurants etc the turn around time is a maximum of a day for micro licenses.

If the authority rejects a license application due to a prohibited location or name then the applicant will know exactly why it has been rejected and can amend it, whereas in the earlier system they had no idea why it was rejected.

The first phase was given a low profile soft launch on the 6th of August 2022 without publicity to fix any teething issues.

For those who are not educated or IT savvy the regional offices will help them.

There site has contact details of the management.

Stage 2 and monitoring CS performance

The Stage two part of this system aimed for June 2023 is integrating 20 Dzongkhags and 4 Thromdes for location clearance and for sectoral clearance from all relevant agencies like National Environment Commission, Forest, BAFRA, BNCA, DRA, Medical and Health Council, TCB, NLC, RMA, MoLHR, MoHCA, DRC, CDB, MoE etc. 

“For any business you have just one interface. Unless there is a site inspection etc then you will be informed of the time to be taken and given the dates,” said the official.

An official said the system will also avoid an applicant giving the same information to multiple agencies. “For a water plant you have to give the same set of information to BAFRA and again to us at the MoEA and so this system avoids that as BAFRA will be in the system too.”

To ensure that civil servants deliver services efficiently the system has a management dashboard where the managers can monitor who has been sitting on the application down to the individual official.

“So all the assessments for the civil servants can be done very objectively using the system,” said the official.

“We also get data on what is the maximum time taken or average time taken and so we can make data driven decisions.”

The system will store the data of which officer is taking too long and so a manager will know ensuring that the assessment can be done very objectively.

“If there is an attempt to tamper or manipulate from the back end to improve the record of officials then an electronic audit can detect that too. It is bulletproof,” said the official.

The manager will decide how many points given on which system. If somebody not happy they can give feedback anonymously.

“The biggest misconception is that MoEA or trade takes time but we need clearance from these agencies,” said the official.

Not only managers but even applicants will know where it is stuck. The system will also send email reminders to the officer so that they work on it within the TAT. TAT already for most agencies like Thromde is for 5 days and for BAFRA it is two weeks. 

“But then there is an issue. No matter how friendly you make the system people prefer a face to face interaction and so it will take some time to be adopted.”

This system will also be integrated to the Bhutan App.

There will be a TAT for all the agencies involved so that everyone is time bound.

For example, NEC has a colour coded categorization for activities. Green does not require any clearance, blue requires environment clearance at the ministry or agency level and red is something like ferrosilicon or mining where NEC comes in and they really have to do the EIA and where some time is taken.

“Through this project one benefit we are already seeing is that the current list has around 300 to 400 activities. Potatoes chips is in the green but what about banana chips and so it had to be sent to the secretary and everything has to be filled up again. With this system in phase 2 we have a list of 1,000 activities under the UN classification. We are negotiating with NEC to see what is green and others and most activities are under green and so most activities will not even involve the NEC,” said the official.

Land Commission is there for land clearance. So if one wants land for a project then one can apply for land within the Industrial Park and in the case it is outside the park one needs to identify the land.

The new system with the NLC and Dzongkhags on board reduces land allotment time significantly for projects.

“There is TAT on land and all agencies as TAT will come from the cabinet and we will design the system together,” said the official.

“As far as possible we can cut down the TAT, but where there are cases where time cannot be cut down and here the system informs the applicants upfront. The moment I click on ferrosilicon or mining I will know the estimated time. Given the impact on the community the due diligence and process must be completed. Mining needs EIA, reports etc which will take time. These are just a few cases and other things will not take time,” the official added.

The system will prevent or reduce corruption and this is also one of the primary intents. “You don’t have to see any face or request anywhere,” said the official.

 “We are training the system so that institutional memory is being built and it takes some load of our work so that we can spend our time on more productive things. Tomorrow a new person can come in and from the first day know all the data. Currently it is based on human memory and hearsay,” said the official.

This project has seven-member team lead by the MoEA secretary, and is both a part of the digital flagship program and also a part of the Nurturing for Leadership Program (NLP) under the transformation reforms.

“This requires a lot of support from other agencies and so we cannot move at our pace as it is not just us,” said the official.

“Earlier where would a reform be designed based on a survey, but under NLP they realized we need a survey to find out the problem. Since this NLP project in MoEA was led by the Secretary and so he could push with the others and so that is why in phase 1 around 242 micro business licenses can be given in one day,” said the official.

The team members said for phase two they need a lot of support from agencies.

“If the pandemic was not there we could have done this earlier,” the official said.

Check Also

Tourism numbers improve in first three months of 2024 but a long way to go

The Department of Tourism said Bhutan welcomed 25,003 guests between January and March 2024 which …

One comment

  1. I want micro license for shop

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *