SCORES of bus and taxi operators are preparing to take the Government to court over what they described as a notoriously flawed database — set up for the six-month-long traffic ticket amnesty — which shows many of them as having outstanding tickets even though they have already paid the fines.
Egerton Newman, co-ordinator of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO) — which represents a number of the operators — told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that more than 11,000 operators across the island “have been left out in the cold” with the expiration of the amnesty yesterday.
“It’s not because they failed to capitalise on the amnesty, but because of the glitches in the system. Hundreds of these operators have paid outstanding tickets but the system is still showing them as delinquent,” Newman explained.
The amnesty, which began on July 1, ended at midnight December 31, leaving thousands of motorists worried as the Ministry of National Security remained firm that it would not be seeking an extension from Parliament.
Those who have not cleared outstanding tickets issued before September 21, 2010 face sanctions, including jail time. However, many persons have complained that they are being shown as delinquents in the database, despite having paid their fines — a glitch which the ministry has acknowledged.
Yesterday, Newman said the transport operators will be staying off the streets until their names are cleared.
“This will result in a major reduction in the number of transportation on the streets in the coming days as scores of nervous operators will stay off the roads as they join thousands more motorists whose names are not cleared,” Newman told the Observer.
“The system is flawed. There was even one operator, when he went to the tax office, was told he owed over $200,000 in outstanding tickets for several offences which he had already cleared,” he added.
Yesterday, president of the All Island United Route Taxi Association Raymond Bynes said he would support any legal action against the Government.
“I am 100 per cent behind any form of legal action to protect the transport operators,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Taxi Association (NCOTA) — which represents some 49,000 operators and owners — said its approach “would not be so aggressive”, but did not rule out legal action.
“The Government needs to recognise the fact that they need to clear up the system. This thing about locking up people needs to be put aside and time spent to carry out more checks and balances,” NCOTA President Dion Chance said.
He also expressed concern that despite pronouncements from the Government, there is evidence that the system has a problem.
“At this time we are calling on all our members to gather all of the evidence to show that they had made payments and that the system is showing them as delinquent customers. When this is done, we will be writing to the Government to highlight this problem,” Chance said, adding that the legal route would be pursued if the letter is ignored.
Yesterday, as the opening hours of tax collection centres across the island were extended to accommodate the last-minute rush, scores of motorists begged the Government to consider extending the amnesty.
“Right now, a one thing me would a want to beg the Government, just give us another extension. That is the only way we going to be able to clear off our tickets, especially with the problems that the Government system is having,” said Errol Boyd, who was waiting at the overcrowded tax office at Regal Plaza in Cross Roads.
Another motorist, Foster Dawkins, said the State should have used bill collection agencies to manage the load.
“On a day like today (yesterday) the Government should have even made arrangements with some bill express organisations where motorists could go and pay their tickets,” he said.
At the Constant Spring tax office, which was the scene of a long, winding queue that stretched onto Constant Spring Road, motorists shared similar comments.