SIX years ago, the process for acquiring a substitute driver's licence was changed with the removal of the first two steps: reporting the loss to the police and the Island Traffic Authority (ITA), followed by an application to the Tax Collectorate for a replacement.
But, that could soon change, as authorities are intent on reintroducing the mandatory requirement of such a driver getting a police report as the first step in the process.
The 2006 policy change replaced a long and arduous process which started off with reporting the loss of the driver's licence to police, then to the Tax Collectorate, which would be required to verify that the licence existed. The motorist would then head back to the police for a signed document, which would then be taken to the ITA to check for any judicial endorsements or convictions. Eventually the motorist would get a stamped document to be taken to the Tax Collectorate where a form would be completed, fees paid and a certificate produced.
Six years ago, a new system was introduced, where visits to various agencies were eliminated and the applicant was required to apply straight to the Tax Collectorate where the entire process would be completed.
However, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, including Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis, who heads the traffic division, was not pleased with the initial change. In fact, the ITA said that since 2006, applications for these licences have jumped from between 200 and 300 per year to 12,000 per year. The police and the ITA believe there may be some illegal reasons for this.
"Indeed, we have been alarmed for many years over the progressive increase in the number of applications," Acting ITA Director Conrad Ainsworth told a Senate select committee meeting last week in Gordon House.
According to Government Senator Imani Duncan Pryce — who brought the motion to the Senate — the increase in the number of people applying for substitute licences has been linked to the increase in the number of illegal licences in operation, based on the submissions of the various persons who have appeared before the committee.
The Ministry of Transport and Works says it has no objection to a police report being required when applying for a substitute licence.
"The (current) review of the Road Traffic Act is looking at all the areas relating to road traffic, including putting back the police in the process when applying for a substitute driver's licence. There is already a draft document," said Joan Wynter, Senior Policy Officer at the Ministry of Transport and Works.
"With the police being reintroduced into the system, integrity will be brought back into the system," Ainsworth insisted.