Commissioner of the Guyana Lands & Surveys Commission (GL&SC), Trevor Benn during the agency’s year-end press briefing on Monday revealed that squatting on land reserves and other open spaces continue to affect the work of the Commission.According to him, several agencies have some level of dispensation at their disposal, which allow them to grant permission for persons to squat.Among key areas, reference was made to the Linden-Soesdyke Highway, an area where unlawful occupation of land continues to rise.“I think part of the challenges we face is that too many agencies, who by virtue of their own statute, give them some responsibility for land and, in some cases, people have misused that authority. Another problem we face in terms of squatting is happening at the Soesdyke-Linden Highway…Today, we have widespread squatting on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway,” Benn declared.At that time, he also mentioned the Commission continues its efforts to repossess lands under non-performing leases.In some cases, persons were granted a lease, but failed to execute their plans of improving that space. The repossession comes at a cost and as such, the Commissioner signalled that stakeholders should be well-prepared before applying.“Over 60 per cent of our leases are non-performing and we mean leases that do not meet the conditions of the lease. We have been left with no choice, but to repossess some of those lands. It is costing us a lot of money to do the process of repossession, but also it’s very tedious and time-consuming,” the Commissioner stated.He added, “We caution you, unless you ready for the land, please don’t come at this time. We’re under pressure to deliver on the demands that we have and we would prefer only to give to those people who are really ready.”AuditsHowever, in regards to the agency’s accomplishments for this year, it hasGL&SC Commissioner Trevor Bennmanaged to complete pending audits up to the year 2012. Next year will see the completion of the years up to 2015, with all reports expected to be finished by January 2020.“The last completed audit is 2011. We have just recently completed the 2012 … and about to have it signed off and it’s our expectations that we will complete 2013, 2014 and 2015 by mid-2019 due to some efforts we’ve made this year to revisit the way we’ve done audits at the Commission.”While annual reports have been “lagging”, the 2017 and 2018 reports are in the process of being completed. The 2016 report was recently completed.It was mentioned that after consultations, the Lands and Surveys Act will be placed before Cabinet during the first quarter of 2019.“After extensive countrywide consultation and reviews by international experts, the revision of our Lands and Surveys Act is almost completed. It is expected that the process will be fully in place to have this bill sent to Parliament in the first quarter of 2019.”LandFrom increased demand for land in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), there is a potential opening of 6000 acres of public land for development for residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural purposes, which will be announced in the near future.“We have observed recently that land in particular areas is of greater interest to people and there’s an overwhelming amount of interest being shown and expressions of interest submitted for land in this area (Region Four).”At present, a new “system” is being undertaken which encourages individuals to bid for lands at a higher price, so as to guarantee assurance that they will acquire the land they desire.“We have introduced a system where those who can afford to pay, we encourage them to pay more for the land on a competitive basis and so for land in the Georgetown and the Region Four area, we have seen a number of people offering us substantially more for the land.”BudgetA “limited budget” is the “biggest constraint” being faced by the Commission, which has been allocated $313 million in the 2019 Budget with estimated expenditure surpassing $1.5 billion.“We are a semiautonomous agency and we’re supposed to be able to find our own resources, but we’ve not been able to fully do that because of the rates which we charge at the moment. This year, in the National Budget, Lands and Survey Commission was allocated $163 million for capital works and $150 million for as supplement for our salaries, so the Commission has to find all of the rest of the $1.5 billion to cover the cost associated with the work of the Commission,” the Commissioner added.
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