Business continuity amidst ongoing health crisis!
MINISTRY OF LAND AND HOUSING
Business continuity amidst ongoing health crisis!
The Seychelles Planning Authority operates under the town and country Planning Act to exercise statutory physical planning functions for the country. The Authority has its budget but falls under the purview of the Ministry of Lands and Housing as its parent Ministry. Seychelles Planning Authority is one organization where its daily operations were not severely affected by the pandemic as many of its services are available online. Nonetheless, the Authority still faces many challenges which require on-site presence to be able to deliver in its full capacity. The majority of staff from the Authority are well equipped to work from home. Through platforms such as VPN, these officers can access their office computer remotely allowing them to perform their daily duties in the comfort of their home. Agents can also make their submissions online and the applications are also processed through an online processing system which allows the Authority to obtain views from referral agencies. Required weekly meetings to discuss and resolve various cases submitted are also done virtually through the Zoom software. Resolve applications are then signed and released digitally through the respective agent’s online account. All correspondences are also sent via e-mail with hard copies sent via the post office. Given all these tasks can be done remotely the Authority was also able to easily manage and implement its standard operations procedures for staff who were part of contact tracing and required home quarantine. These staffs were also able to continue delivering their duties due to easy access to their pending work from the office. The Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Planning Authority Ms. Angela Servina expressed her great satisfaction with the commitment of staff ensuring business continuity of the Authority during this ongoing pandemic. Nonetheless, she explained that some on-site visits have been put on hold to limit contacts of staff during this time. I am happy to say that the majority of our staff are still delivering to the highest expectations, despite the circumstances. In respect of site visits for physical assessments, monitoring of ongoing construction projects, and occupancy visits we have been more cautious. Especially since many construction sites are having workers who have been negatively affected by COVID-19. We have adopted individual visits rather than in groups, to reduce contacts. Visits to sites with existing houses have also been deferred, given that staff were coming into contact with positive COVID-19 cases who were in home quarantine” asserted Ms. Servina. Ms. Servina also explained various challenges the Authority is facing being dependent on other agencies for inputs and comments on various applications. We rely on our referral agencies for comments and inputs on applications, and some of them have been badly affected by COVID-19, hence their feedback has not been as timely as in normal times. Hence this creates delays in the processing of applications and also delays in communicating to our clients. Furthermore, delay in site visits as expressed earlier also ultimately delays the finalization for processing planning applications” affirmed Ms. Servina. It was also confirmed that pre-planning and applications specifically related to Religious development have also been delayed due to the need for public consultation. Additionally, the Seychelles Planning Authority planned to conduct several meetings and consultations for some of the Land Use Plans under review. The Authority has unfortunately canceled public consultation meetings for Land Use Plans, policy documents, and guidelines as per traditional meetings with agents and contractors. The delay in public consultations will mean further delay in the finalization of land use and development plans. Regardless of the delay the Land Use Plan (LUP) committee undertaking this exercise continues to push forward. The committee is meet ing via Zoom and has switched group site visits to individual members conducting visits on their own. The members provide their feedback in the form of a report after the visit with supporting drone footage and pictures. The feedback received on the respective zone or site is then assessed and discussed further during the next online meeting. With budget constraints, the Seychelles Planning Authority this year finds it operating with immense pressure on its internet budget. This is due to the necessary procurement of equipment and internet bundles for staff to work from home efficiently. Many staff of the Authority has agreed to use their internet from home at their own expense to ease the pressure and for that, the Authority is very grateful and appreciative. Nonetheless, the accounting officer of the Seychelles Planning Authority continues to closely monitor the budget due to uncertainties of the pandemic.
Ms. Angela Servina, Chief Executive Officer of Seychelles Planning Authority.