I noted the letter to the editor in the Friday, July 15 edition of the Stabroek News concerning the Ministry of Housing and Water. This letter is not only disturbing, but also grossly inaccurate and misleading. The author of this anonymous letter made some exceedingly unwarranted and tainted remarks concerning the administrative capabilities and procedures of the ministry. The accusations made in the letter are a personal attack not only on the Minister but also the numerous technical staff that work along on public days to provide quality service to our people.
Whilst this response is not geared towards “preaching the government gospel and telling people how much good [the] ministry is doing,” – I think the general public can be a more accurate judge – it seeks to clarify a few issues.
The Public Day of the Minister of Housing and Water is usually every Wednesday except if he is out of the country or on other duties outside of Georgetown. The numbers for Public Day are issued from 06:00 hrs (6 am) in the morning. In the initial stage, 100 numbers are issued and persons are advised that they can wait after the first 100 persons are seen. This is done primarily to allow persons who do not have the time to wait to decide whether they would wait until the 100 persons are seen. Since this year has started, for example, the Minister has seen an average of 160 persons every Wednesday.
Anyone who pays a visit to the Ministry of Housing and Water early on Wednesdays cannot deny that there are usually over 300 persons waiting to have a word with the Minister. However, one must be cognisant of the fact that he is only one man who has other government business to take care of on a daily basis, and it is practically impossible for him to meet everyone. Notwithstanding this, on the last Public Day (July 20, 2011) the Minister personally attended to more than 200 persons; and on the Public Day before that (July 6, 2011) the Minister saw more than 300 persons. (Please see the lists attached.)
In addition to the Public Day, the Minister meets on average 25-30 persons every morning seeking an appointment with him. Moreover, the Minister also attends all the One Stop Shops across the country. It is important to note that at these One Stop Shops every single transaction, which is conducted at the ministry – from receiving applications to actual allotment of house lots – is done on the spot and at a location that is easily accessible by the allottees. The Minister’s secretariat also organises two community meetings every month across Guyana.
It appears that some persons believe that the only way that they could be serviced by the ministry is by meeting the Minister. Nonetheless, there are very competent and approachable senior functionaries who are specialised in their various departments who can more than ably attend to the public on all five working days. Additionally, the land allocation and conveyanceing department is fully staffed by persons who work assiduously in attending to the public. We work with the ministry and can attest to the hectic schedule and workload we carry. As a matter of fact, many of the staff work late hours at nights to ensure that applicants can be allocated their house lots as early as possible.
Since the ministry commenced allocating lots on the East Bank Demerara and citizens are aware of the visionary economic and social developments that are on stream for the East Bank, a significantly large number of old applicants, who refused allocation outside of Region 4, have now resurrected seeking allocation in Region 4. These thousands of requests for house lots on the East Bank Demerara cannot be accommodated because of the limited number of lots available. As a result, the ministry is actively encouraging applicants to accept Region 3 where there is an ample supply of house lots.
As to the accomplishments of the Ministry of Housing and Water, it is remarkable and the public would judge all the players fairly. However, it is apposite to note that under Minister Mohamed Irfaan Ali’s watch, several improvements have been made and are being made to the physical layout and flow of the office administration to facilitate a more customer friendly environment. The so-called long lines are as a result of the limited space, occasioned in part by the construction works – a situation that is temporary in nature – and by the massive demand for house lots on the East Bank as pointed out earlier.
We would like to take this opportunity to advise the public that the Minister’s Public Day commences at 07:30 hrs (7.30 am) every Wednesday and numbers are issued from 06:00 hrs (6 am) We are aware of the fact that some persons arrive at extreme hours in the morning; however, as a matter of policy, we would only convene issuing of numbers at 06:00 hrs. For persons who have access to the internet, the Minister can be contacted through the website at www.chpa.gov.gy where a response would be much more efficient, normally within 72 hours. Moreover, because of a very busy schedule, the Minister is encouraging persons wishing to have an audience with him on Wednesdays to call on Tuesday afternoons to confirm that he will be available to see them.
Just to understand the workload of the ministry, the following ought to be highlighted:
On average, more than 1,500 members of the public visit the ministry on a weekly basis to conduct various business.
The ministry has in excess of 30,000 pending house lot applications.
The ministry has successfully distributed more than 17,000 house lots in less than 3 years.
For the first half of this year, the ministry has successfully conducted six One Stop Shops where more than 2,500 house lots were allocated and thousands of other applicants were attended to.
The ministry plans 11 more One Stop Shop activities for the remainder of this year in Regions 3, 4, 8, and 10, which will see a further 5,000 house lots being allocated and thousands of other applicants attended to.
Infrastructural works in existing and new housing schemes are ongoing in every single region across Guyana which will benefit thousands of Guyanese.
At the One Stop Shop held at the National Stadium on July 9, 2011, more than 3,000 persons were attended to.
The ministry is working aggressively to meet the ever increasing housing demand in Guyana.
Meanwhile the ministry remains committed to delivering quality service to the Guyanese public and to ensuring that every Guyanese family lives in their own home. These erroneous and blatantly false accusations, which are calculated to create a bad image of the Minister and the Ministry of Housing and Water, will not dampen the commitment of the Minister and his hardworking staff to ensure that all Guyanese have access to land and affordable housing in an equitable and sustainable manner.