Thursday, 10 July 2014
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
8. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide an update on the progress of the commitment in An Action Plan for Jobs to deliver an integrated licensing application service for the retail sector; when the service will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29922/14]
The Forfás report, The Review and Audit of Licences, carries the findings of an audit of 159 licences in the State across key sectors of the economy and recommends the introduction of an integrated licensing system. The Government considers this project to be of significant importance and has positioned it as one of the disruptive reforms in An Action Plan for Jobs. Such an integrated licensing system which will streamline the licensing applications process is a reformative step in reducing the administrative burdens on business. A key goal of the proposed system is to support the licence applications process through the provision of a single portal or website through which businesses will be able to apply for and renew a multiplicity of licences. The new licensing system will be developed for the retail sector in the first instance and rolled out to other sectors of the economy thereafter.
The delivery of an integrated licensing applications system for business offers real potential to ease the process of starting up a business in Ireland and significantly reduce the work involved in the annual renewal of licences. It will also contribute to maintaining Ireland’s position at the forefront of delivering advanced e-government services and using information technology to reduce costs for business and improve the delivery of services to business.
The integrated licensing applications system should also provide productivity and efficiency gains in the public sector by streamlining the administration of licensing processes and the potential for more integrated inspection and compliance systems in the future and better application of risk-based enforcement.
A statutory instrument, SI No. 83/2014, was signed by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in February 2014 to designate my Department as a body to which the Local Government Management Agency, LGMA, can provide services. This will enable the LGMA to act as the contracting authority for the licensing application system. The drafting of the request for tender for outsourced provision of an integrated licensing application system involved extensive consultations with the Office of the Chief State Solicitor, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General.
A request for tender for a single supplier framework agreement for the provision of an integrated licensing application service was issued through eTenders and in the Official Journal of the European Unionon 21 February 2014 with a closing date of April 2014. An evaluation panel, chaired by the LGMA, has been established and the evaluation phase is ongoing. Subject to the successful awarding of the services contract to an appointed provider, the system should be delivered in the autumn.
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive reply on an important initiative. The Minister of State, the senior Minister and the Department's representatives have attended a number of regional meetings. I attended one in Galway where a number of business owners commented on the time it takes to fulfil regulatory requirements and said that the time could be spent more efficiently. I welcome the fact that this was published on the eTenders site. Does the Minister of State anticipate that this can be rolled out to businesses in 2015? How long will the development of software for the integrated portal take?
Roll-out will be attempted by the end of this year. We met the State licensing authority bodies. The project is on the eTenders site and, subject to the successful awarding of the service contract to an appointed provider, the integrated licensing application system will be delivered in the autumn. By the start of 2015, this will be up and running.
With regard to the question about the simplification of licensing, this deals with 28 licenses and 15 State authorities. We looked at the cost of doing business across the economy of Ireland and it involves 159 licences across key sectors of the economy. We hope that, once this is successfully operational, we can roll it out to other sectors of the economy. The Minister identified that this is one of the key disruptive changes in the Government's plan. We are delighted it has moved to this level and we are confident this will be operational from January and will benefit restaurateurs, hoteliers and everyone in the retail sector. It should be of huge benefit.
I hope it can be developed by January of next year and that it can be rolled out to other sectors in the business community, because it is important. Were there any issues or problems with State agencies in developing this?
We brought together the licensing bodies and I thank them for their co-operation. I compliment them on their willingness to participate in the integrated licensing system, which is one of the first in Europe. It will be the first of its kind and we are happy with the co-operation, the statutory instruments, and the fact that it has done to tender. The Office of the Chief State Solicitor was helpful and the Attorney General ensured that difficulties were overcome. The support of everyone to ensure this happened and its inclusion as a measure in the Action Plan for Jobs is an indication of the commitment to the plan. As a measure incorporated into the plan, the Minister and the Taoiseach were determined it would be delivered in autumn. We are on schedule. The determination of everyone to deliver this was clear. I thank officials involved, including Forfás and the other teams, who worked to ensure we are at this point.