Amid the ongoing legal battle between businessman Mark Maloney and Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins, a senior Government Minister says he is not about to ‘bury” his head in the sand.
Addressing a branch meeting in the constituency held by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who has overall responsibility for the Town & Country Planning Department, Inniss stayed clear of mentioning by name the ongoing row involving Rock Hard Cement.
However, he took a direct swipe at the island’s planning department while calling for inefficiencies within Government to be identified and dealt with as a matter of urgency.
The outspoken Inniss, who is the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, went on to complain that entrepreneurs were often frustrated by the Town & Country Planning Department to the point where they felt they had to “take the law into their own hands”.
“You hear the occasional complaints from individuals about the length of time it takes to get approvals or decisions made from Government departments and sometimes the perception that some people make by taking the law into their own hands, but there [are] some matters that may be sub judice that you can’t speak to,” said Inniss, amid the ongoing controversy between Maloney and Cummins, whose department has ordered the businessman to put a stop to his construction of a storage facility along the Spring Garden Highway for his Rock Hard Cement company.
The matter was recently referred to this country’s Director of Public Prosecutions Charles Leacock, QC, for adjudication after Maloney refused to adhere to the Chief Town Planner’s command.
With the matter yet to be settled, Inniss issued a stern warning Sunday night that “as much as we criticize some entrepreneurs in this country for their public stance on some issues, we must not bury our heads in the sand and believe that all is well on the other end, because I can tell you that there are quite a few legitimate entrepreneurs in this country who are frustrated with the perceived tardiness of getting applications processed that they feel they have to take the law into their own hands.”
Inniss however made it clear that he was not encouraging any one to break the law, saying: “I would rather spend my time asking, ‘How can we get an increased level of efficiency in this country. How can you get a Town and Country Planning application processed in a matter of weeks, as opposed to months per se’.”
However, the Government minister acknowledged that the planning department was not responsible for every delay.
In some instances, he said, the department could be awaiting a feedback from another ministry, pointing out that months may pass before an applicant was informed of such.
In the case of the Licensing Authority, he also complained that there were too many locations that one had to go to, in order to renew a drivers’ licence, saying it was unacceptable.
“You can criticize the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Public Works, but they don’t micro manage or run these departments. And it may not even be the individual staff members, but something is fundamentally wrong in a system in 2016 that says I have to go to The Pine to fill out a form and go to the BRA [Barbados Revenue Authority] to pay a fee,” he said, pointing out that such a situation was not only resulting in high costs to the individuals, but also contributing to low productivity overall.