Description of Initiative:
The Business Problem:
Expediting permit, license, and approval (hereafter referred collectively as “permit”) application processing is an important strategy within the Environmental Health Administration (EHA) and among many government agencies in Hawaii. At a time when industry is being forced to streamline operations, a slow and cumbersome permitting process and a backlog of applications is not good government business. Many agencies are under increasing scrutiny from legislators, federal government regulators, and the business community to provide timely, efficient, and transparent permit processing service. Failure to do so can result in an agency being viewed as an “obstacle to commerce.” Like many agencies, EHA faced several challenges affecting various aspects of the permitting process, including:
- Applicants often had difficulty determining permit requirements and identifying the appropriate application forms;
- Applicants regularly submitted applications forms that were incomplete or did not meet basic information requirements;
- Applicants and permit issuers had significant difficultly in determining the current status of, or who was responsible for, a permit application at any given time;
- Applicants and permit issuers had very limited metrics to help measure and track the timeliness and productivity of their permit processing;
- Application fees collected required substantial staff time to reconcile checks and cash, including time and effort researching and recovering bounced checks.
Most EHA programs traditionally accepted hard copy permit, license, and approval applications. Permit applications were inventoried in 2007, and it was concluded that more than 10,000 permits were processed per year. The programs also relied heavily on a manual and paper-centric process and did not house all data in a single common location. Further, EHA divisions are located at different locations thus making administration-wide data consolidation and process integration challenging. EHA recognized an opportunity to invent and incorporate new technologies to help streamline its overall permitting process.
The e-Permitting Portal solution provides the EHA with an elegant, flexible, online service. Besides facilitating an application submission process, payment processing and approval across the agency, the e-Permitting Portal is an advanced electronic system designed to provide flexibility and control for the agency to provide permitting information and manage all application and submission types. The e-Permitting Portal brings all permit application processing into the same system with a common interface for the user community. It provides an intuitive and easy-to-use mechanism for users to navigate the system, learn about EHA permitting rules, obtain program information, and prepare, submit, and manage online permit applications electronically. Permit information and applications share a consistent look and organizational structure and common content. The system streamlines the regulated community’s permit, license, and approval application submission process and increases the efficiency of staff managing related processes.
The e-Permitting Portal will ultimately streamline internal permit review, processing and issuance processes. Permit engineers can focus their attention and expertise on permit creation rather than managing the ever-growing paper permit application backlog. The system also facilitates open and timely communication between the applicant and environmental program (permitting entity), which results in efficiency gains and enhanced visibility into the permitting process.
This project enabled EHA programs to communicate, collaborate, and think beyond their own requirements, and to consider how the e-Permitting Portal would benefit the entire administration. The project’s year-long collaboration among EHA permitting management and key staff allowed each program the opportunity to truly look at their existing business processes, to learn from each other, and to identify ways to streamline their own processes. This ultimately resulted in the refinement of application forms, a consolidation of the overall number of permit application forms, and a strong internal partnership that will no doubt lead to continued coordination and cooperative improvements within EHA going forward.
Building the e-Permitting Portal lets EHA evolve from the disparate, labor-intensive and inconsistent processes of the past. It provides EHA with the necessary tools to meet its permitting obligations and allows for proper allocation of resources and staff. The e-Permitting Portal also allows EHA to assist in the achievement of the Governor’s goal to assist renewable energy project developers by providing a more streamlined approach in obtaining permits.
Results to Date:
In 2012, the e-Permitting Portal was made available on a trial basis to selected business and government entities. EHA asked each to participate in an informal partnership to offer suggestions and recommendations. Since September 2012, EHA has received more than 1,400 online application submissions and processed and completed 82% of the online applications. These online applications have generated over $850,000 in online application fees. EHA programs also measured an approximate 30% reduction in time required to process the electronically submitted permit application forms. EHA hopes to continue reduction of the average permit processing time by about 30%. For more information, visit the EHA’s e-Permitting Portal at https://eha-cloud.doh.hawaii.gov/epermit/.
Environmental Information Manager
Hawaii State Department of Health Environmental Health Administration