Transfer of P.U.M.A. to Ministry a major challenge
The transfer of the Planning and Urban Management Agency [P.U.M.A.] to the Ministry of Works has been described as one of the agency’s major challenges last year.
The challenges associated with the agency’s transfer from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment [M.N.R.E.] was highlighted in the M.N.R.E. 2018-2019 Annual Report.
The decision to move the agency to the Ministry of Works Transport and Infrastructure [M.W.T.I.] was made in April last year by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi.
The short notice to the M.N.R.E. and the M.W.T.I. was a major challenge on top of finding office space for staff including the P.U.M.A. Assistant Chief Executive Officer.
“This sudden transfer gave little time for the Ministries involved to facilitate the move as several matters had to be quickly resolved between the two Ministries,” the report notes.
“Although the Division of P.U.M.A. remains on Level 1 of the T.A.T.T.E. building, the Assistant Chief Executive Officer’s office is still located on Level 3 where M.N.R.E. is located.
“It is hoped that an office for the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of P.U.M.A. is constructed at the earliest on Level 4 of the T.A.T.T.E. building to further strengthen the coordination and communication between the M.W.T.I. management and the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of P.U.M.A.”
Another challenge that the relocated agency faced is the staff requiring a dedicated driver to accompany them on their site inspections for development application purposes.
The report noted that with the move to M.W.T.I. the number of drivers was limited and as such P.U.M.A. principal officers were assigned to drive the vehicle, when assessments were to be done by other staff members.
“This takes up a lot of time for principal officers out of the office,” the report states.
“To ensure principal officers spend quality time in the office to do their work, it is urgent that a request to P.S.C. [Public Service Commission] for additional drivers is facilitated so as to help ease the workload facing senior staff of the agency.”
P.U.M.A. then pointed out that recommendations should be considered to ensure the agency provides efficient and effective services to the Government and the public.
According to the report, the agency’s operational budget is increased annually to cater for the rise in the number of development applications being processed every year.
Furthermore, a new office in Savaii is part of the increase in operational budget.
In terms of achievements made by the P.U.M.A., the report noted the agency processed 1002 development applications for the financial year 2018-2019. Some 963 were granted development consents from those applications.
The agency determines all applications that are estimated to be less than $1million tala, although for some cases that are below $1million, which may have potentially significant impacts and are referred to the board for determination.