JAMAICANS who are not State officials or who have no friends in high places will readily identify with Acting Public Defender Mr Herbert McKenzie's characterisation of three government agencies that subject untitled people to pain.
Although Mr McKenzie, while participating in a panel discussion marking the Office of the Political Ombudsman's 20th anniversary on Monday, identified those entities as the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), the Registrar General's Department (RGD), and the Criminal Records Office, the broader point he was making was about poor service in the public sector.
According to Mr McKenzie, "there is no shortage of complaints" received by his office about these three agencies. Far too often, he said, citizens pay the prescribed sum for guaranteed services and at the end of the period they are nowhere closer to getting the services than before they approached the entities.
We, however, would not be surprised if an extensive survey conducted among Jamaicans about these three entities in particular uncovered varying degrees of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Different people, after all, have had good and bad experiences in dealing with them.
To be fair, Jamaica has come a long way from the days when doing business at a government agency or ministry required citizens to take a day or two off from work. Indeed, one agency that stands out in providing consistently quick and efficient service is Tax Administration Jamaica's St Andrew Collectorate on Constant Spring Road in St Andrew.
However, despite improvements in customer service at some State agencies, a lot more needs to be done. As the acting public defender rightly said, it is the quality of the service and the standard that are important.
We have long felt that if government officials, particularly members of Cabinet and other legislators, had no option but to go themselves to many of these agencies to conduct business, systems would have been put in place to ease public frustration.
That, however, should not be the impetus for good customer service.
The fact is that Jamaicans, regardless of their status, should be treated with respect, and the State can set the tone for that by significantly improving the services it provides to its citizens.
While we accept that government entities are observing protocols to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, it is iniquitous to have people, especially the elderly, standing in line, exposed to the elements, awaiting service.
Outside of that, if people pay for a particular service, all should be done to ensure that they get what they paid for. Failing to do just that opens the door to corruption.
After 60 years of self-government Jamaicans should not be put through such misery. And if we are really serious about creating a better country for all by 2030 then this is one of the problems that we must fix.
Governments like to talk about the big things, but it is the little things like service at a State agency, without which it is hard to exist, that mean the most to so many of our people who just want to get on with their lives.
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