Not so anymore
Chang says criticism of PICA unfortunate, suggests acting public defender was looking at old data
People wait outside the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency office on Constant Spring Road in St Andrew to collect their passports, in this April 8, 2022 photo. (Photo: Pete Sankey)

MONTEGO BAY, St James — National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang on Thursday described as unfortunate, criticisms levelled at the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) by Acting Public Defender Herbert McKenzie.

"I am in a difficult ministry, I accept, but I have many calls from people saying 'I have applied online for my passport and get it the next day.' Some have applied and asked for courier service and get it within days," Dr Chang responded to questions from journalists following a tour of Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

"The commendation is there. I find the acting public defender's comment, including PICA in that list of agencies with complaints, most unfortunate," Dr Chang said.

McKenzie, who was participating in a panel discussion organised by the Office of the Political Ombudsman in recognition of its 20th anniversary on Monday, had tapped PICA, the Registrar General's Department (RGD) and the Criminal Records Office for delivering service not in keeping with what they advertise.

McKenzie said he had pointed to the three agencies because there is no shortage of complaints at the public defender's office about them.

"The commonest one we get, and it applies to all three, you pay for a service advertised at, for argument's sake, $8,000 and you get the service or the item in three days; $10,000 or $15,000 you get it in 24-48 hours. Far too often citizens pay the prescribed sum for these guaranteed services and at the end of the period they are nowhere closer to getting it than before they approached the entity," McKenzie told the conference.

But Dr Chang argued that McKenzie might have drawn his conclusion from outdated information and challenged him to provide current data to substantiate his claim.

"I would love to see him show the statistics because we have not had that kind of problem and I know we have many, many more commendations than complaints. Nobody is claiming perfection; we are all humans and you may have one or two that have fallen through the cracks, but PICA has done excellent work in improving its service standards," said Dr Chang.

"In fact, it is one of the agencies that drew my comment when I came in the ministry that we need to have minimum service standard across the Ministry of National Security because it is a service ministry in spite of the challenges we have. And you know the Government has, in fact, launched a programme of excellence in service," he said.

"I guess one of the challenges we face is [that] there are legacy issues. He was looking at old data," the security minister argued.

Dr Chang, who is also the Member of Parliament for St James North Western, noted that PICA is among the few agencies that have acquired ISO 9001 certification. "That, in fact, is a good indication of being among the best in terms of compliance to international standards," he said.

ISO 9001 is the international standard for a quality management system. In order to be certified to the ISO 9001 standard, a company must follow the requirements set forth in the ISO 9001 Standard. The standard is used by organisations to demonstrate their ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements and to demonstrate continuous improvement.

Dr Chang argued that PICA "is one of the few government agents that have a ISO 9001 qualification since 2015. And, in fact, has won several awards for customer service over the last few years".

"The Passport and Immigration Agency, of course, is one of the primary agencies in border management, and today provides unquestionable quality despite the comments you may hear elsewhere," the minister said.

BY HORACE HINES Observer staff reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

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