Public sector workers, particularly those in the Town & Country Development Planning, have come under heavy criticism from Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations Colin Jordan for a lack of professionalism and efficiency.
Minister Jordan was making his contribution to the debate on the Planning and Development Bill, 2019, when he argued that the process for securing approval by Town & Country Development Planning and for accessing critical services from other government departments remained simply too slow.
“People are trying to get into a government department and nobody is answering the phone. They are trying to get a response from a department and they are told that it is being considered. Decisions need to be made and deadlines need to be adhered to,” said Jordan.
“We believe that as a government that we have a responsibility to be effective, to be efficient and not to unduly delay the process that will help development to happen in the country. And so we are imposing timelines on ourselves and on the ministries and departments that we are responsible for,” he said.
Jordan added that government was often guilty of subjecting Barbadians to unreasonably cumbersome experiences to move forward with development projects.
“If you are building on the coast, you have to interact with about 17 government departments between idea and opening your doors. Your application is done in hard copy, placed in a file for each of those 17 departments to consider the application, they have to receive the file.
“Those persons who are waiting for those applications to be approved are stalled, because if somebody goes on holiday or sick leave, that can derail or stall the process through which the application has to follow,” he said, while adding that it was for this reason that government had prioritised the digitisation of its records.
“This is something that should have been done many years ago, but we have come to the point where we recognize that we must use technology to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the decision-making process. I think it is instructive and will help those potential developers and investors to know that there are timelines which we as a government are insisting are met in the planning and development process,” said the minister.
The labour minister lauded the provisions of the proposed planning and development bill, which he described as a turning point in the mindset of public servants in the department who traditionally would view town and country proposals with skepticism.
The new legislation contains provisions which allow for conditional acceptance or provisional refusal, giving applicants the opportunity to rectify any problems with their proposals.
“So that we do not see people as some of our predecessors have, that if somebody from civil society, the private sector or citizens in general, come to an office, send in an application, that our first thought should be that they want to rip off the government and do something shady.
“We should be thinking, ‘you have to follow the rules, and if you are not following the rules, how can we get you to the point where you are following the rules’,” he said while stressing that public servants needed to change their thinking. [email protected]