Clean up the traffic ticket mess quickly

Thursday, January 03, 2013

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We support the tough stance taken by the tax authorities to collect outstanding traffic fines. Indeed, the fact that so many motorists rushed to the tax collectorates over the final four days of a six-month amnesty demonstrates the need for firm and decisive action against rampant indiscipline on our roads.

That last-minute rush to avoid prosecution suggests that motorists had basically scoffed at the traffic tickets and really had no intention to pay. The worst offenders, it appeared, were operators of public transportation, some of whom proudly displayed multiple traffic tickets issued over several years, but which they had not paid. Last week, for instance, one bus owner showed us reams of paper with ticket infractions and fines totalling $84,500 issued from as far back as 2005.

Where we part company with the tax authorities, however, is the complete mess they made of the data provided to them by the police.

This newspaper and other media organisations have published reports of motorists questioning the credibility of the data.

One medical doctor, to whom we spoke as he waited in a long line outside the Cross Roads collectorate last week, complained to us that he received two tickets, one in 2005 for $5,000 and the other in 2006 for $500. He was therefore surprised to see his name posted as a delinquent on the Tax Administration website, even though he had paid both fines.

His problem, though, was that he could not find his receipts and correctly wondered who would have their receipts from 2005 until now?

Probably the most ridiculous case aired was that of a female motorist who was ticketed for driving a trailer, even though, she said, she has never driven such a vehicle in her life.

As far as we are aware, the traffic police are equipped with the technology to determine, on the spot, whether motorists have outstanding traffic tickets.

All that is required of any police officer who has stopped a motorist is to input either the driver's taxpayer registration number, or the motor vehicle's registration or chassis number into a BlackBerry and request the information.

That data, as far as we know, is credible, and we have not heard of anyone challenging the information before.

The big question facing Tax Administration Jamaica therefore is, how could it have uploaded so much faulty information on its website over the period of the traffic ticket amnesty?

It is obvious that someone, or some people, goofed big time, creating not only chaos and great inconvenience to the public, but also hundreds of hours of lost production time.

Of course, as it is a Government agency, we don't expect that Tax Administration Jamaica will impose sanctions on the person or persons who messed up so badly. That, however, should not be the norm.

We note that National Security Minister Peter Bunting has announced that the ministry, Tax Administration Jamaica, and the courts will update and reconcile their databases to determine the accuracy of the claims made by motorists who were incorrectly listed as delinquent.

We hope that process will begin no later than next Monday and that it will be carried out with efficiency.




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