Georgetown, Guyana — (May 19, 2018) Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC), Mr. Trevor Benn, yesterday, announced that the GL&SC has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at improving services and integrity at the Commission. Commissioner Benn made these statements during an interview conducted at Statehouse, Anna Regina after a two-day GL&SC outreach to Pomeroon-Supenaam (Region Two), where he also noted that the establishment of Regional and National Land Use Policies is underway.
“There should be National and Regional Land Use Policies… It is our expectation that these [Land Use] Plans will be prepared on a more frequent basis and updated more regularly… There is a committee that has been put together to begin work on a National Land Policy and that committee is also tasked with reviewing our Land Use Plans,” he said.
The two-day outreach was conducted to bring resolutions to a number of land issues brought to the Commissioner’s attention by residents of Anna-Regina and the surrounding villages. The Commissioner, flanked by a 10-person team with representatives from the Georgetown GL&SC office, the Region Two GL&SC office, and the Department of Housing, listened to the concerns of over 80 residents from Anna Regina; The Deep, The Jib, Darthmouth, Lima Dam, La Belle Alliance, and the surrounding villages.
Mr. Benn said that such community visits and outreaches and face to face contact with residents allow for more informed decision making on land issues and disputes. “It is our principal position that, as servants of the people, we are required to consult with them, to discuss with them their issues, and to get advice as is necessary…. From time to time, there are letters coming to us and instead of making decisions on those letters, we like to understand the circumstances that may have led to these letters… and one of our ways of doing that is to come on the ground… and see for ourselves… We are now better prepared to respond to the requests of those individuals,” he said.
In order to ensure President David Granger’s vision of an ‘unbribable’ Public Service at the level of the GL&SC, the Commission has also taken measures to improve integrity and accountability. “We have zero tolerance for corruption at the Commission, which is another reason that we do these visits… If any [corruption is] happening, we will know. We will hear first-hand from the people… Just recently, because of corruption, we’ve had to send home two staff … We’re taking steps daily to ensure that our staff is sensitised. We are making our office more open to the public… We’re putting cameras in the building… and we are using [press] mediums… to let people know that they do not have any requirement to pay staff members for the service they provide and any payment made must be done on a receipt.
To that, Mr. Benn added that the Commission has an open mind when it comes to constructive criticism from the people of Guyana, “We are very open to members of the public in terms of how we can improve the service [that] we deliver. Again, this is why we come to the field. We don’t ever assume that we have the answers to all of the question that are out there,” he said. The Commission will be implementing an Acknowledgement of Receipt system to ensure applicants that their applications have been received and are being processed, a suggestion made by Region Two resident and land applicant, Mr. Charles Gregory, during a Regional Community Meeting conducted during the outreach.
Chairman of the Interim Management Committee of the Guyana National Co-operative Union Limited (GNCUL), Mr. Derrick Cummings praised Mr. Benn for not losing touch with the people on the ground. “Commissioner Benn, I’ve known you for a long time and I’m very happy to see that you’ve never lost the common touch and never lost the interest in trying to work with the down-trodden and to bring justice to those who need justice,” he said.
Chief Co-operatives Development Officer within the Ministry of Social Protection, Ms. Perlina Gifth said that GL&SC has been particularly helpful with land issues involving co-operative groups. “I want to thank the Commissioner for the work that he is doing because the Lands and Surveys department has been in contact with us where persons have applied for land representing co-op societies… [The Commission has] been checking to see the validities of the groups… [In] the interest of people who want to be involved in agriculture… he [would] consider their applications and have the process done to issue titles,” she said.
The Commissioner made courtesy calls to the Mayor and Council Members of Anna Regina and the Regional Chairman of Region Two and attended the dedication ceremony of the GNCUL’s Office Building.