Prime Minister Dean Barrow has described it as a “hotbed of corruption,” and claimed it was one of the sources of his greatest frustration as chief executive. But it seems the Lands and Surveys Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources is finally cleaning up its act. Following consultations with multiple stakeholders the CEO in the Ministry, Sharon Ramclam, presented an overview of short-term reforms intended to improve service delivery, internal controls and safeguards for files and security of land tenure. CEO Ramclam discusses efforts to control what she calls outright theft of Government funds at the Department.
“We also have been faced with issues of theft, and I say outright its theft, in terms of things happening in the department, and we see that we defiantly need to put more surveillance systems in monitoring the movement of staff throughout the department, and especially at the district level where they seem to be operating in silos and not connected to the headquarters in Belmopan. We are pleased to announce that we will be installing security cameras in all the publicly accessed pieces 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.”
Some specific cases have been referred to the Police Department for investigation. CEO Ramclam also spoke of efforts at public relations and customer service improvement.
“We are also tightening up on land inspections. We have discussed this thoroughly in the Lands Department with the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner as well. Land inspections are not being done appropriately. The mechanisms that are in place are inadequate, to monitor and track the inspections being done. We have outstanding reports from one source that have not been submitted for a particular case. We need to tighten up on that part of the process, in terms of land inspections. We’re also looking at dealing with and adjusting the issues of Customer Service Delivery, hiring new staff on contract, that would be specifically trained in Customer Service and Delivery, answering questions, helping to fill out applications, providing basic information on land matters, when somebody walks into the Lands Department.”
These are only part of the plans which also address tracking of applications for national lands, field inspections and providing public information. Internally there will be training for employees and the hiring of new contracted employees to address deficiencies in customer service and public relations and complaints from consumers. Long-term plans for legislative and policy change are also being considered.