Current Affairs

Current Affairs



Land Agency moves to stamp out fraud at Titles Office
Observer Reporter
Friday, April 19, 2002



Chief Executive Officer of the National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA), Franklyn McDonald (left foreground), listens keenly at a press conference outlining the achievements of executive agencies. Also pictured are heads of some of the other agencies (from right) Carmen Tipling of the Jamaica Information Service; Maria Jones from the Management Institute for National Development; Patricia Holness from the Registrar General's Department; Lona Brown from the Administrator General's Department; Elisabeth Steer from the National Land Agency and Judith Logan-Chung from the Registrar of Companies. (Photo: Michael Gordon)

THE National Land Agency (NLA) is putting in new measures at the Titles Office, including security cameras, restricted access to the premises and the electronic scanning of records to reduce corruption in its offices, chief executive officer of the Agency, Elisabeth Steer, said yesterday.

"There are two main areas of fraud at the Titles offices -- one happens when fraudulent titles are made outside the office and put into the system and secondly where fraudulent changes are made to the real document," Steer said.

"We are now dealing with it by putting new systems in place. We are introducing the electronic sorting of title documents. We also want to scan supporting documents so that we are sure that what we have in our records really originated in our organisation," said the CEO.

Steer was giving an update on activities of the National Land Agency at a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston, called to outline the achievements of the Government's eight executive agencies and the future of the modernisation of the public sector. The National Land Agency was one of the last set of four executive agencies set up by the government last year.

The agency was in February rocked by allegations of fraud at the Titles Division, which is was under investigations by the Police Fraud Squad. At the time Prime Minister P J Patterson had asked the police to probe what he said were cases of widespread evasion of taxes and duties.

According to Steer, tighter security measures were being implemented to prevent any recurrence. Security cameras, she said, had been placed throughout the building. Access to certain rooms especially those containing company records would also be restricted to visitors and some staff members.

"We have put in some customer service initiatives because sometimes some of these fraudulent activities occur because people feel that they are not getting through," Steer explained.

At the same time, Cabinet Secretary Dr Carlton Davis said yesterday that he was proud of the performance of the executive agencies.

He said that during the fiscal year 2000/2001 the customer satisfaction rating of the first four executive agencies had increased by 7.3 percentage points, moving from 83 per cent in 1999/2000 to 90.3.

The first four executive agencies were the Registrar General's Department (RGD), Registrar of Companies, Management Institute for National Development and the Administrator General's Department.

Last year served as a transition period for the four new executive agencies -- Jamaica Information Service, National Works Agency, National Land Agency and the National Environment and Planning Agency.

There have, however, been consistent complaints from the public about customer service at the RGD.

But, the agency's CEO, Patricia Holness, said the company has been meeting over 99 per cent of the demand for its services. "We do, however, have a problem with overcrowding as we do not have enough space to accommodate everybody. We have been meeting on this and will soon announce the measures we plan to take to deal with it," she said.

According to Holness, in March the RGD had dealt with over 23,000 queries and had averaged over 11,000 customers monthly in previous months.

In the meanwhile, she said the RGD was working to:

* increase public awareness of the services offered;

* introduce on-line payment services;

* implement a point-of-sale service over the next three years to ensure smoother flow of operations;

* expand the parking area, and

* introduce genealogical research and to allow customers worldwide to access the RGD's indices on-line.