Dubai pushes for efficiency with The Red Initiative

The initiatives are led by representatives of different government agenciesImage Credit: Supplied

A drive to improve the efficiency of four government agencies is expected to generate billions of dirhams in savings each year and up to 10 per cent time savings for construction projects. The agencies involved in the campaign jointly launched three initiatives this month that will have wide-ranging impact across the real estate and constructions industries.

The campaign aims to cut down the processing time of no objection certificates [NOCs] from days to just hours, says Abdullah Al Hajri, Executive Vice-President of Customer Service at Dewa. This will speed up approval of various permits for building contractors, landlords and other entities. ''You have to provide a better service, a faster service — all these things come to the ultimate goal of making people happy,'' he says.

Al Hajri heads Red Team, a group comprising four government agencies — Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (Dewa), Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Dubai Municipality (DM) and Mohammad Bin Rashid Housing Establishment (MRHE) — competing in the City Maker Race initiated by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council.

The initiatives cover a gamut of processes and procedures but broadly target efficiency, transparency and ease for industry stakeholders. This is done by unifying rules, regulations and processes across government departments to eliminate duplication, and harnessing technology to expedite the entire process.

''When you're working manually, no matter how much you reduce the time there's always a period for engineers to check [the information], which goes back to the consultant or contractor. All these things take time,'' says Al Hajri, who also oversees Tarish, one of the Red Team initiatives. ''Since we are looking for Dubai to become the smartest city in the world, this means we have to do things automatically and as fast as possible.''

The initiatives have been trialled in Al Barsha 2 over the past few months, where officials have managed to get the waiting period for NOCs down to a few hours. ''Last year [it used to be] around 10-14 days for NOCs [to be released], now we are about to come to five days [outside the initiative]. With this initiative we're coming down to four hours,'' says Al Hajri.

With the combined initiatives, the Read Team estimates projects will take up to 10 per cent less time to complete depending on size. To achieve this, Al Hajri says they have eliminated unnecessary bureaucracy and have sped up the implementation of end-of-construction services such as electricity, water, gas and roads.

''You're reducing [the number of approvals required to start and complete] the project. We expect 5-10 per cent reduction in time [across the board]. The investors and contractors will require less time [to complete their projects].''

The initiative that unifies processes and regulations, called Tarish, eliminated 16 paper-based processes across electricity and water services, construction approvals and NOCs. Electronic payments are also soon to be set up.

The time savings amount to an impressive financial boon. Using figures from last year, the team calculates up to Dh4.6 billion in savings each year once the initiatives are in full swing. ''These savings are spread out over the contractors, consultants, other entities and owners,'' says Al Hajri.

He says the next step is to roll out the entire scheme across the city, starting with the newer areas of Dubai and eventually moving to old Dubai. The team aims to complete the implementation by end of next year.

Another initiative being rolled out is Qafay, a geographical information system that will provide a centralized access for all land data. As the older areas of Dubai have a much longer history of work, with some areas having inadequate or inaccurate data, the roll out of Qafay ''will be the hardest in terms of cleaning the data'', says Al Hajri.

Open invitation

To speed up the implementation of Qafay, the Red Team is coordinating with relevant agencies and companies to create land blueprints and ensure a more comprehensive geographical information system. The task, he admits, is ''one of the hardest things to do'' across the entire project. ''It takes a long time to take maps from all over Dubai and make sure they are [consistent],'' he says.

The database will need information stored in different departments and companies about land usage, including underground net- works, across the emirate and integrate it in one place. The system is the lynchpin of speeding up permit and NOC processes — companies themselves will even be able to look at the database and evaluate what work is possible in a given place. ''We are open for every entity with an underground network to come to us,'' says Al Hajri, adding that Etisalat has already signaled its interest to contribute to the initiative.

''Other entities will join and it will expand. Everything [that is built] underground will be there on the map.''

The third initiative is called TM, which provides a single platform to access services under Tarish and Qafay through an application that can be downloaded from Google Play or Apple App stores.

Al Hajri points out that the initiatives aren't just for the construction industry. ''We're hoping this will [make costs] cheaper for the contractor and the owner, and for the end user [as well],'' he says. ''One way or another we all need to build, rent or purchase [property] — everything comes down to how much it costs and how fast it can be provided.

''These savings hopefully will be transferred to the end user. We try to make Dubai liveable, not only because you have money but because you want to live here and it's easy for you to live here.''

The Red Initiative

The Red Initiative was launched by the Red Team in line with the City Maker Race. The Red Team comprises the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa), the Roads and Transport Authority, Dubai Municipality and Mohammad Bin Rashid Housing Establishment (MRHE).

The City Maker Race was launched last year by His Highness Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. It aims to encourage government agencies to enhance collaboration and creativity in delivering solutions and government services.

The Red Initiative combines Tarish, Qafay and TM. Abdullah Al Hajri, Executive Vice-President of Customer Service at Dewa and Head of the Red Team, says the initiatives will boost the real estate and construction sectors and help transform Dubai into the world's smartest city.

Tarish

The Tarish initiative will integrate and unify laws and regulations, and requirements for electricity and water services, construction approvals and no objection certificates (NOCs). Jassim Mohammed Hussain, Senior Housing Consultant at MRHE, says the purpose of Tarish is twofold. ''One, to deliver information to the customer, and two, to combine all the information or rules and terms and conditions between all the government departments.''

Tarish has eliminated 16 paper-based processes for NOCs and permissions by taking processes online and expunging duplication. ''Whenever you want to apply for a building [permit] you have to apply to three different government departments and each has different rules and procedures, so we have combined all those procedures into one,'' says Hussain.

Qafay

Qafay is a geographical information system that will store all Dubai land information and underground maps. The database can be accessed by all stakeholders in the construction industry, including contractors, consultants, and building developers and owners. It will also implement full automation of engineering audits and NOC issuance, as well as other approvals.

''Qafay will help achieve 90 per cent savings in time for employees and stakeholders in issuing NOCs and granting approvals,'' says Abdul Hakim Malik, Head of the Qafay Technical Team.

''The system will provide 100 per cent data, information on engineering drawing and geographical maps, and will increase customer satisfaction to 90 per cent.''

It is also intended to reduce paperwork and carbon footprint by 90 per cent by reducing the need for site visits.

TM

TM provides a single platform to access services under Tarish and Qafay. It is an application that can be downloaded from Google Play or Apple App stores.

Yousuf Al Khazraji, Head of the TM Technical Team, says the smart app provides all necessary information for real estate owners, contractors and consultants in Dubai. The app will provide information regarding the status of building permits, construction approval and electricity and water services connections.

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Source: Amanda Fisher, Special to Property Weekly

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