One Stop Agency to Process Environmental and Planning Applications


The Ministry of Health and Environment has put plans in place to establish a ‘one stop agency’ to facilitate the quick processing of applications relating to environmental and planning matters.
These include applications for beach licences, wildlife research, lifeguard registration, environmental licences and permits, among others.
According to the Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, the decision comes in the wake of concerns about the long waiting period for a response from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) regarding applications.
He was speaking at a meeting with staff of the Environment unit of the Ministry, at its Trevennion Park Road Offices in Kingston, today (September 20).
“The Government will be setting up a one stop agency, where NEPA and all the relevant players and Board members [involved] in the decision making will be [in one place], so that within three months of the application, the Board will be in a position to give a clear and definitive answer to the applicant,” he informed.
He said that with such a system in place, the Board would be able, within “maybe” a month of receipt of the application, to advise the applicant that there are some shortcomings, so that they can be satisfied within three months.
“If there is no answer from the Board at that time, it is assumed that the [person’s] application has been approved.those are some of the things we want to discuss with the staff, how best this can be achieved against the background of a new administration that seeks to bring to the Jamaican people a better quality of life and better service delivery,” Minister Spencer said.
Director of Strategic Planning, Policies and Projects at NEPA, Winsome Townsend, who was also on hand, told the meeting that part of the expected results of the agency for the period 2007 to 2010 is that processing time for applications would be less than 60 days.
“We consider our organization a service one [therefore] a more efficient application processing system with a vast majority of applications will be processed in 60 days, is better than the 90 days suggested by the Minister,” she said.
“We have been able to reduce our backlog.to 55 per cent with the implementation of the recommendations of an organisational assessment and we will go forward and do much better,” she assured the Minister.
The Minister in his response said that he agreed with the recommendation for 60 days. “We are going to work with other agencies to ensure your objectives are achieved, especially where they dovetail with those of the new administration, because Prime Minister Golding has challenged [that] the agency ensures that service delivery is on time,” he said.
Elaborating further on the agency’s efforts to improve service delivery, Mrs. Townsend said that it had been fast tracking applications of national significance, so that “they could go through as fast as possible, while not compromising the environmental and planning considerations.”
NEPA will also be implementing a project that will allow customers to go online to track their applications. This, she stated, would be up and running in six months.
Mrs. Townsend also supported the plans for the ‘one stop agency’ by pointing out that a “joined up government approach” to the processing of applications would go a long way in improving the processing time of applications.
“NEPA and parish councils should be technically empowered, so as to reduce dependence on inputs from other agencies,” she stressed.
In the meantime, Minister Spencer implored the staff to work “a little bit better” to achieve maximum service delivery.
“I want every staff member to be comforted in the fact that we are not here to clean house as some people might be expecting. We are here to ensure best practices and that we can work together to ensure that Jamaica has the best environmental practices that it deserves to have,” he said.

JIS Social