The Lands Department has, on countless occasions, has been at the centre of reports on corruption, frustrations and controversies over the last years. In recent years, there have been some attempts in getting the department to be transparent and accountable but it is a challenge and a work in progress. We say, work in progress, because there is another plan in the pipeline with the objective of making the unit more efficient. Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Sharon Ramclam, presented some of those planned changes.
“We are looking at an automated numbering system where we can track each and every application that is filed with the department, whether it’s a new lease or a transfer or for a purchase, we’ll be able to track those where we will be able to assign a specific numbering system that will be able to help us track the moving system of that particular application through the system. We are also putting in place a proper tracking system in place for visitors. Everybody who visits any of the lands department throughout the country, will receive a specific receipt, it’s sort of like a ticket saying you visited, this was your complaint, your query, this is the officer who addressed or attended to you and this is what happened and so at the level of the supervisors for those districts and even in Belmopan at the headquarters the supervisors will be expected then to provide updates on a monthly basis on visitations at the various district offices. We are pleased to announce that we will be installing security cameras in all the publicly accessed places in the department at the district level and in Belmopan and also in the areas where the cashier booths are located. Those areas will be outfitted with security cameras which will be monitored on a daily basis by our IT personnel. Each officer and this is where clear separation of duty will come in where each officer who is assigned a specific function or a specific process in the whole processing of land documents have certain level of access, so the people who accept your applications are only allowed to input that type of information then it moves on to another queue where the land inspector is prompted then that this requires a land investigation and they provide that input or that report and it is prompted to the next queue. That system is what exists. What has been missing is the fact that the officers have not been adequately trained in applying the system so we need to look at that and make sure that is properly implemented and what this will allow now is the fact that one of the new features that we will putting in is a Landfolio Auditor, someone who will be specifically assigned and equipped and versed in this entire system to monitor its use and be able to report on any back log.”
As for the issue of personnel, the Lands Department will be acquiring new staff members on contracts that will include exit clauses thus making it easier to reprimand or terminate anyone who is caught acting contrary to proper protocols.
RT. HON. DEAN BARROW
“The Lands Department, which has been, together with some other departments in government, a source of continuing frustration, Cabinet approved a paper put out by the department, particularly, the new CEO, Ms. Ramclam and the Commissioner of Lands, Mr. Vallejos and that paper sets out precisely how it is, the means to improve the department and provide for the first time at last for effective service delivery. It’s going to cost government, we’re going to hire additional personnel, all of whom will have to be on contract because we don’t want people getting permanent appointments joining the public service and then we run into the same problem where no matter what happens you can’t get rid of them. So, the new hires will all be on contract with exit clauses so that we can deal with any temptation they might have to go there and get on the bandwagon.”
These changes will come about following a full review of the Land Management System that is being looked for added security in the Lands Department.