Chengdu City established its Administrative Examination & Approval Center to streamline provincial and municipal procedures that regulate local businessstart-ups and existing businesses in February 2004. To operate efficiently, the new center needed to resolve complex and time-consuming procedures that made the examination and the approval processes for business licenses and "market entry" cumbersome. Unfortunately for businesses, there was often more emphasis on procedure than on service quality.
In April 2007, the Chengdu government established a special working group to analyze procedures for market entry and business start up. This group became the entry point for a more comprehensive reform of procedures that resulted in the One-Window Joint Examination & Approval System. The System's goal was to eliminate the lengthy and protracted paperwork that caused so many start-up delays. This System officially began operation on September 3, 2007. It applies management concepts popular in private enterprises to government administration. It has "efficiency plus effectiveness" as its sole criteria of good administration. It focuses management attention on four key themes:
Service Quality: Chengdu made changes to the administrative procedures that allow both the Examination and the Approval Departments to exercise greater initiative in serving the public. Additionally, the new system requires cooperation and coordination among government departments to simplify procedures for the public. In other words, the service standard has been transformed from a "government standard" to a "society standard."
Simplification: The project was able to streamline and simplify the examination and approval process. After a thorough investigation of the laws, rules, and regulations of the various departments, the working group was able to clarify the duties and rights of the government departments engaged in the process and identify and eliminate overlapping examination and approval procedures. The final result is a simple, scientific work process.
Transparency and Openness: The new system uses diverse information channels, such as the internet. Information is now transparent, easily accessible to the public, and subject to social supervision. Government departments conduct administrative approvals that reduce official corruption and an enterprise information sharing network within the departments that helps to maintain market order and pust an end to market misconduct such as tax evasion.
Timeliness and Cost Effectiveness: The system sped up approval time for licensing and reduced the cost of market entry (registration) by 75 percent. In the past, a 14-page application form that required 35 documents was the norm. Now, applicants fill out a 4-page application and submit only 14 documents. From its inception in September 2007 to November 20, 2007, a total of 624 cases were processed with a decrease in processing time of 77 percent. Processing time is now roughly three hours and 20 minutes. The system even set a record in licensing market entry-one hour and eight minutes.
The System has attracted attention from people in walks of life. In September 2007, the reform won The 2007 Progress in Chinese City Government Award and passed the preliminary evaluation for the First Prize in Science and Technology Progress in Chengdu. Currently, the reform is being applied extensively in all Districts of the Chengdu municipality. Since leaders of the Sichuan Province have endorsed the practice, it will also be extended to other parts of the Province.
Factors to be considered for further improving the system include: formulating regulations to ensure sound development of the system, and implementing a supervision system over the entire process of examination and approval.