EDITORIAL – Line items: Waiting for government

From time to time, we find ourselves wondering if managerial-level government officials are going about their jobs with their “eyes wide shut.”

Surely, for example, Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing David Dixon must be acutely aware of the agony his agency is inflicting upon the Cayman Islands community.

Consider the following narrative, which we share not because it is unusual, but because it is an entirely typical account of what it’s like dealing with the DVDL:

A Pinnacle employee and his wife recently noticed that it was time to renew their drivers licenses.

Being residents of West Bay (and hoping to avoid the notorious crowds at the DVDL’s central location), they decided to go to the satellite DVDL office in their district. On Monday, they arrived at the DVDL office on a “reconnaissance mission” – to scout out how much time they should allot for the renewal procedure.

The good news is there was no crowd at the office. The bad news is that is because the West Bay office is closed on Mondays. (It’s actually open from Tuesday to Saturday.)

Accordingly, the two returned to the DVDL office the next day – at precisely 10 minutes before 9 a.m., hoping to be near the front of the anticipated line when the office opened.

Good news: No line.

Bad news: The office does not open until 10 a.m.

However, it was not a wasted effort. While they were in front of the closed office, a member of DVDL’s staff approached them and provided them with the necessary forms to fill out before their return visit. (Kudos to the female staff member, who appeared to be the supervisor. She was friendly, professional and helpful.)

Following this unsuccessful attempt, the applicants learned that instead of appearing “in person” to renew their licenses, they could dispatch a “proxy” to act in their stead at the DVDL office.

That was good news for the applicants, but bad news for the proxy.

When the proxy arrived at the DVDL office in West Bay later on Tuesday, she observed the room was full – actually overflowing, with the line of people extending outside of the building.

She took one look, then made a wise decision: She gave up. She drove to the DVDL office in Breakers, where she was able to renew the driver’s licenses forthwith.

Mission accomplished.

The point is, there is no more obvious sign of inefficiency and mismanagement than the persistent existence of long lines.

In many areas of Cayman’s government, interminable queues are a plague, of which managers cannot help but be aware, and yet consistently do nothing about.

The oft-maligned DVDL has plenty of company. The Department of Immigration, for example, features lines that stretch beyond the doors of the building and down the sidewalk.

During the debut weekend for the new arrivals hall at Grand Cayman’s airport, incoming passengers waited in line, on the hot tarmac, for several hours. (Fortunately, officials seem to have addressed and mitigated that particular situation.)

When we enter a government agency and see a long, snaking line of frustrated people – or a crowded room with one of those dreaded “take a number” kiosks – the thought arises that long lines are a problem that multitudinous jurisdictions and entities have solved an infinite number of times over. (Has anyone called Disney, to ask them about their approach? How about Woody Foster?)

A positive example in government, worthy of emulation or expansion, is the implementation of ordering police clearance certificates via the internet, cutting the necessary number of in-person visits to the police administrative office from two to one, effectively halving the wait and doubling the convenience.

In addition to basic managerial strategies such as staffing flexibly for peak “rush-hour” periods, electronic innovations have marvelous potential (which has been proven elsewhere overseas and in the local private sector) to reduce dramatically the length and duration of physical queues.

Put it this way: “Online” or “in line” – Where would you rather be?

2 COMMENTS

  1. The DVDL takes some beating for incompetence. I went to the George Town location with my daughter 10 days ago to renew her driving licence (having tried West Bay the day before which had around 70 people in line). We arrived at 8.30am and asked if we needed to fill a form in and were told yes, and to take one from the rack of forms on the wall – only there were no forms for driving licence renewal. Someone eventually produced some and we duly waited for about 1 hour until our number was called.My daughter then paid the clerk her renewal fee only to be told she could not get her licence as the equipment was out of order and they were waiting for a part (we understand this problem had existed for some months). The clerk then suggested we go to Breakers which we did later in the day and finally got the licence.
    This fiasco can only happen in a Government department where accountability for incompetence is never practised so that incompetence becomes the norm. Why did Mr Dixon not put up a large notice outside his department advising driving licence renewals could not be processed and also publish it in the media?. Why is it that this department one of the busiest dealing with the public, never seems to have more than 4 of the 6 windows manned (and sometimes even less), no matter how busy they are. Why does it take so long to repair a vital piece of equipment, if parts are needed why are spares not kept?
    We wasted a whole morning to complete a process that takes 10 minutes. The sad thing is a large number of civil servants could not care less, as they know full well, unlike the private sector, that the public cannot take their business elsewhere and simply have to put up with wasting an inordinate amount of not only their own time but their employer’s as well.

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