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Let's get to work on the traffic ticketing system

Friday, January 18, 2019

From the discussions at Wednesday's meeting of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), it is clear that much work is needed to ensure the effectiveness of the new Road Traffic Act when it is implemented in April.

We share the concern raised at the meeting that synchronisation of the Traffic Ticket Management System (TTMS) among the responsible State agencies might not be ready in time for the enactment of the new Act.

Dr Denarto Dennis, the senior court statistician, is reported as telling the PAAC that it is not possible to fully rely on the data from the Ministry of National Security's TTMS due to the large number of deficits and inaccuracies that persists in the system.

According to Dr Dennis, the Ministry of Justice had to supplement data from that system with manual data from the courts, and the figures it arrived at had a margin of error of plus or minus five per cent.

So the meeting heard that the number of outstanding traffic tickets in the National Security Ministry's database stands at 309,608 for the period November 22, 2010 to December 2018, while the number in the Justice Ministry's system, for the period January 2010 to December 2018, was 998,338.

Dr Dennis has argued that while the problem is multifaceted, involving multi-stakeholders, the nucleus of the challenges lies in the TTMS' deficiencies and other technical and operating deficits.

“The TTMS is really a police system that is ill-equipped by fundamental design and attributes to serve the direct needs of the courts, both from a reporting and case-tracking perspective,” he told the committee.

According to Dr Dennis, the system could not reliably track the status of a warrant — whether it has been issued or administered. In addition, there were deficits in the accuracy and adequacy with which updates are made to the system and transmitted to the courts.

These gaps, Dr Dennis said, have resulted in judges exercising caution in issuing warrants as there have been instances of people showing up in courts with proof that they had paid their tickets.

We certainly know of at least one case in which a motorist who received a traffic ticket, paid it at one of the private payment agencies approved by the State, only to be called by a representative of the company and told that the payment was not registered due to a problem on the day it was made.

While that may have been an anomaly, the authorities should not overlook the possibility of a recurrence.

Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ), we are informed, has been given the responsibility of coordinating the integration process to meet the requirements of the new Act.

According to Mr Ainsley Powell, the TAJ commissioner general, the agency is now in a better position to meet its mandate, given that all amendments to the Act have been approved.

The focus now, therefore, should be on completing all that needs to be done. The timeline may be tight, but projects, once conceived, can be implemented, and properly so, with a fixity of purpose.