Photo above: Principal Director of the Public Sector Transformation and Modernisation Program, Office of the Cabinet, Wayne Robertson. Photo credit: JIS.
By Elaine Hartman Reckord
JIS Staff Writer
KINGSTON, Jamaica, March 29 (JIS) — A key component of plans to grow Jamaica’s economy involves strengthening Ministries, Departments and Agencies to administer the nation’s business in the most efficient and effective manner.
The aim is to reduce red tape and bureaucratic procedures and improve the ease of doing business across the country.
This transformation process is being led by the Office of the Cabinet through the Government’s Public Sector Transformation and Modernisation Programme (PSTM).
“We are working to implement (this)….under key pillars and those are trade facilitation and investment facilitation. We are also looking at government efficiency and customer service and public sector cost containment. That’s critical,” Principal Director of PSTM Implementation, Office of the Cabinet, Wayne Robertson told JIS News during an interview.
Robertson said, a lot of work has been done in the areas of trade and investment facilitation to boost government efficiency and customer service.
He noted, the government is currently working with the World Bank in terms of building out a sustainable program of facilitating trade.
“For example we are looking at how it is that we can improve export and import service provision to MSMEs (Micro Small and Medium Enterprises) and so, rather than taking six steps and rather than making 10 stops, we are saying, you need to make one stop,” Robertson added.
He also mentioned, technology is helping to improve the effectiveness and efficiency within public sector entities and businesses.
He cited the web-based Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) at the Jamaica Customs Agency to facilitate electronic processing of documents and the Application Management and Data Automation Software (AMANDA) in the Ministry of Local Government to improve the development approval process.
“At the end of the day, we also want to boost performance productivity. We are ranked amongst the lowest in the region in terms of productivity and so we want to ensure that we utilize the information management systems, Information Communication Technology, all the platforms. So we are doing our research to look at what the best practices are globally and how we can replicate locally,” he said.
Robertson noted, that there has been noticeable improvement in terms of starting a business, and that Jamaica has moved up five places, to be ranked 59th out of 144 nations in the 2015 Forbes Best Countries for Business Report, making it the top country in the Caribbean region to do business.
In keeping with the modernisation initiative, the Companies Office of Jamaica (COJ) is one government agency that has been benefiting from the use of technology, and is set to launch an electronic business registration form (EBRF), to facilitate a hassle-free and more convenient option to transacting business.
Explaining the electronic business registration procedure, Chief Executive Officer of the COJ, Judith Ramlogan, noted, that persons will need a computer, internet service, a signing pad or a token for digital signatures and a scanner, as some documents may need to be uploaded to the system.
“Once you have these things in place, you go to the COJ website at www.orcjamaica.com, to complete the form (EBRF), scan and upload the necessary documents, sign the documents whether with a signing pad or a digital token, which will produce a digital signature, then submit the documents along with your payment by credit card to COJ,” Ramlogan informed.
She added, that with this done, and once the form is properly completed and submitted, then the registration is done, automatically, and a notification sent when the certificate is ready.
The CEO said, persons will need to indicate the method of pick up, that is, whether by courier, bearer or a visit to the COJ office in New Kingston.
Persons who do not have access to the internet or a computer, may still be able to utilize the EBRF, as kiosks will be set up at select offices of the Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) and the COJ.
“We will put these kiosks in the larger revenue service centres in Kingston, Montego Bay, Mandeville and St. Ann’s Bay…so persons can come into the tax offices and do their registration without coming into Kingston,” the CEO stated.
Highlighting the benefits of the EBRF, Ramlogan pointed out, that with the implementation of the system, persons will be able to save time, money and enjoy more convenience in registering their business.
“As it stands now, with the manual business registration form, you have to come here (COJ office in Kingston) or get somebody to come here and present the paper forms. Customers bemoan the fact that we only have one office in Kingston, so with this arrangement, they will not have to come into Kingston to register their businesses,” the CEO pointed out.
In terms of savings, Ramlogan pointed out that the new system will eliminate the use of paper as customers have complained that the forms are voluminous.
She said, however, that the COJ will continue, in the short or medium term, to facilitate persons who wish to register their documents manually after the roll out of the EBRF.
“We hope that, in a few years, people will see the necessity and the savings that can accrue to them if they decide to register online rather than come into the office to register. We also have space and parking constraints, so I would say to persons, if you can register your business online, do so and benefit from the savings and convenience,” she urged.
Meanwhile, Robertson said, he expects Jamaica’s ranking on the ease of doing business to further improve once the business registration form is implemented.
“Our role is to work with the Companies office … to ensure that we provide that monitoring and supporting role. We provide support on a day to day basis, whether to sit in a meeting, to provide solutions, to work with all the partners and so the Cabinet Office has a critical role in that regard,” he added.