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Amnesty embarrassment - Traffic ticket revenue projections leave Government well short

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, November 08, 2012    

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THE Government is facing major embarrassment over the dismal failure of its traffic ticket amnesty designed to pull in mega bucks from thousands of outstanding traffic tickets not paid by errant motorists, dating back to September 2010.

The amnesty, introduced in July this year, was projected to rake in between $1 and $2 billion in revenue for the State’s coffers, with optimistic plans to share the proceeds among the Consolidated Fund (budget), the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Justice.

But tallies have shown that the amnesty only brought in $5.5 million in its first four months, with less than two months to December 31, when it ends.

In addition, the issue has triggered funding problems for the ministries involved, as national security officials informed the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament yesterday that they expected $921 million in appropriations-in-aid (revenue) from both the amnesty and current traffick ticketing procedures this financial year.

The officials explained that of every dollar from the amnesty, 40 cents went to the Consolidated Fund, 18 cents went to the Justice Ministry’s Criminal Justice Programme and 42 cents to traffic programmes.

Vivian Brown, the chief technical officer in Ministry of National Security, argued that the Ministry of Finance and Planning was “a little overgenerous” in projecting that his ministry could have achieved $400 million-$500 million from its 40 per cent of the amnesty revenue.

“It would have meant that about $1 billion in tickets would have to be collected,” Brown told the committee.

But, that $1 billion was exactly what the Ministry of Finance had predicted would have been collected by December.

Brown explained that due to the fact the traffic court system is not electronic, “we had to make an estimate in terms of how many of the tickets in the system were processed through the courts”.

He said that it was on that basis that the “sharp range” of revenue of $1.06 billion at the lower limit and $2 billion at the upper limit was arrived at.

Permanent Secretary Dr Annmarie Barnes explained that the ministry had been having challenges both in the collection of regular ticket fines, as well as revenue from the amnesty, which had now created budget problems in terms of meeting the $921-million shortfall.

However, Barnes noted that the ministry had accessed some $468 million to help meet the shortfall, including $200 million from the Consolidated Fund and $218 million in reallocated funds.

The ministry’s Principal Finance Officer Jaycinth Jarrett undertook to provide the committee with a detailed explanation of the funding problems at their next meeting on Wednesday.

The PAAC, chaired by Opposition MP Edmund Barlett, monitors government’s fiscal responsibilities and medium-term economic targets.

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