Implementation Opinions of the General Office of the State Council on the Comprehensive Reform of the Approval System for Engineering and Construction Projects (Guo Ban Fa [2019] No. 11) (Mainland China)

Karl Zhang

The General Office of the State Council recently issued an implementation opinion on the comprehensive reform of the approval system for engineering and construction projects (the “Opinions”) to implement a full-process and comprehensive reform on the approval system of engineering and construction projects.  The reform covers the entire approval process for engineering and construction projects (including project establishment through completion, acceptance, and connection of public utilities services).  The reform primarily deals with housing construction and urban infrastructure projects, while excluding special projects and major projects in transportation, water resources and energy; it also covers approval matters for administrative licensing, technical review, intermediary services, municipal public utility services, and recordation to promote process optimization and standardization.  See below for details.

1. The main objectives of the reform

According to the Opinions, the main objective of this reform is to reduce the approval time for national engineering and construction projects to no longer than 120 working days, and the province (autonomous region) and prefecture-level cities and above should initially complete the project approval system framework and information platform in the first half of 2019.  By the end of 2019, the engineering and construction project approval management system should be connected with related systems and platforms.  Pilot areas should continue to proceed further with the reform, increase innovation, and further streamline the approval process by reducing the approval stages and the approval time reduced.  Guidance and facilitation services should be improved for better approval efficiency.  By the end of 2020, a unified nationwide project approval and administration system for engineering and construction projects will be substantially established.

2. Unified approval process

The Opinions pointed out that with respect to the approval process, it is necessary to streamline the approval items and remove all items that are not compliant with the law, unreasonable or unnecessary, thereby reducing the prerequisite conditions for reserved matters.  The approval items shall be regulated with a reasonable separation of approval phases for engineering and construction projects into four stages, namely, project land use plan, the project construction, the construction work, and completion acceptance.  The approval process should be established separately by category, and a unified national approval process model flow chart shall be created.  The people’s governments at prefecture level and above are required to prepare the approval process flow chart for government investment, social investment projects and others based on the model flow chart.  Meanwhile, the approval processes can be further organized and consolidated based on the types, investment categories and scale of engineering and construction projects.

The Opinions also proposed the implementation of a joint review of drawings and joint acceptance inspection, regional assessment and a notification commitment system.

3. Unified information platform

For the establishment of a unified information platform, there needs to be a robust engineering and construction project approval management system, and the local people’s governments at the prefecture level and above are to integrate and establish such a project approval management system which covers all the relevant local departments, districts and counties and connects to the national approval management system to realize real-time sharing of approval data.  The management system must be capable of “multiple system integration”, as well as online parallel approval, statistical analysis, supervision and management and other functions.  Reviews could then be conducted on “a single blueprint” and making unified acceptance, parallel approval, real-time circulation and tracking and supervision possible.

4. Unified approval management system

From the perspective of approval management, the aforementioned “one blueprint” scheme will coordinate the implementation of project items and the integration of all planning to delineate each path of control so as to establish a “single blueprint” with “multiple system integration”.  A single window will provide integrated services, a single form used to integrate submission materials, and a single set of mechanisms regulating approval operations.

5. Unified supervision

For supervision, the Opinions mentioned stronger ex-post supervision, a better credit system, and regulation of intermediary and municipal public services.

In addition, the Opinions also set out rules regarding organizational structure to ensure that the reform can proceed smoothly.  In general, the reform of the approval system is a major decision made by the Party Central Committee and the State Council under the new environment.  It is an important part of promoting the transformation of government functions, greater reform toward “delegation of power, streamlining administration and optimization of government services” to improve the business environment.  After the reform, the approval of engineering and construction projects will become more efficient and convenient.