THE Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) said it is starting to audit local government units (LGUs) to check on their compliance in terms of moving their entire business permit application process online.

ARTA will prioritize highly-urbanized cities because they have more businesses and bigger populations, ARTA Director General Jeremiah B. Belgica said at an event Thursday.

ARTA and other government agencies in April signed a joint memorandum circular that would require LGUs to reduce the number of application forms and automate business licensing systems by June 17.

Business registration must be processed within three business days, while the number of signatories on permits must be reduced to three people.

LGUs found to have not complied with the circular could be deemed in violation of the Ease of Doing Business law. Those who completely ignore guidelines to start automating their processes could even be penalized under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Mr. Belgica said.

“But again, we will look at the reasons behind their difficulties (in automating),” he said in Filipino. Those that have started the process of automation but encountered challenges such as the development of online payment options will receive assistance from ARTA, he added.

“Around 94% (have started) automation,” he said, citing a report from the Department of Interior and Local Government. But he also noted that automation has to be end-to-end.

Local governments were given three years from the implementation of the Ease of Doing Business law, signed in 2018, to set up an online business registration system. — Jenina P. Ibañez