Last October, Prime Minister Dean Barrow described the Lands Department as “a hotbed of corruption,” and at an official press conference which he hosted in Belize City today, Sharon Ramclam, the recently appointed Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture, announced a sweeping reform which will entail the installation of surveillance cameras at all areas of the Lands Department where officers interface with members of the public.
One of those key areas will be the cashier’s section, due to the discovery last December of missing funds—the details of which Ramclam declined to disclose. She said that the matter is in the hands of the police, to whom they have reported the alleged theft.
The CEO announced at the press conference that the Department has been “faced with issues of theft,” but when we asked for details and clarification on how many such instances there were, she told us that the December incident is the only recent case of which she knows.
“We see that we definitely 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,’ Ramclam said, adding that IT personnel will monitor these surveillance cameras daily.
The CEO also announced that they are “tightening up on land inspections,” with changes in the tracking system, but moreover, that new contract officers will be hired whose specialization will be in customer service and delivery. These new staff will provide personalized service to persons who visit the offices to file applications.
According to Ramclam, Cabinet had approved a paper presented by the Lands Department. The CEO said that she and the Commissioner of Lands, Wilbur Vallejos, had set out plans to improve the Department and to provide for effective service delivery—changes which she admits will come at a substantial cost to Government.
“These new hires will all be on contract with exit clauses so we can deal with any temptation they might have to go there and get on the bandwagon,” Barrow said.