By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
The Government of Belize and the Ministry of Natural Resources are investing in a strategy to reform the Lands Department and stomp out the corruption that has been afflicting the country over many years.
The measures, according to CEO in the Ministry, Sharon Ramclam, will look at specific areas: public relations and customer service, misconduct by public officers, the security of files, and improving accountability.
“We have been faced with issues of theft in terms of things happening in the department and we definitely need to put more surveillance to monitor the movement of staff in the department, especially at the district level.”
To support the new enhancements, an automated numbering system will be installed to provide those who conduct business at the department with receipts tracking their transactions.
GOB also will install surveillance cameras in all the public offices country wide, including the cashier units. The department will also introduce a land-folio system to deal with the backlog of land files, and strengthen the mechanisms for land inspections.
New staff for the ministry, who will be specifically trained to deal with the public, will be hired on a contract basis.
Ramclam is expected to, at the end of six months, report to Cabinet what progress has been made in curbing corruption and increasing efficiency.
The impetus for the new measures, which have been long overdue, came after Sharon Ramclam took over as CEO at the Department of Lands.
“Right now, there is a sense of arbitrary decision-making by lands officers at varying levels of the spectrum. That has to stop,” she said. “The gatekeepers are the Commissioner of Lands, the Deputy Commissioner of Lands, and the Minister. So if there are any documents that are processed outside of the prescribed procedures, we are expecting that what we are putting in place now will capture those things,” she continued.
Ramclam lamented that sometime members of the public entertain public officers in their misconduct and wrongdoing. “If we really want to tackle this thing,” she urged, “we also have to ask the public and encourage them to participate in the process as well by discouraging these kinds of things.”
The price of the investment, according to Prime Minister Barrow, will be costly on the government. He explained that they will hire on contract basis because that eliminates the problem of people becoming employed permanently and then using the public service system to remain on the post.