THE issuing of fraudulent motor vehicle licences to elderly, likely deceased and underage Jamaicans has prompted Auditor General Pamela Munroe-Ellis to sound an alarm over discrepancies within the Drivers' Licensing System.
In her report for the financial year ended March 2010, now being scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC), Munroe-Ellis said her department had uncovered some 65 instances where applicants 100 years old and over were issued with drivers' licences "for the first time". There were also records of some 8,596 applicants between 65 and 99 years of age who were issued with "first-time" licences.
At the other end of the spectrum, the report showed that there were 1,767 applicants under 17 years of age who were issued with drivers' licences in contravention of the Road Traffic Act, which says the minimum age at which a person can be issued with a driver's licence is 17 years of age.
The Auditor General also found 740 records of applicants under 21 years of age being issued with a General Drivers' Licence, allowing them to drive Public Passenger Vehicles (PPV), which is also in contravention of the law.
Her report went on to highlight additional discrepancies in relation to the age of licensees including the discovery of some 249 files where the original issue date of the driver's licence was "before the applicant's date of birth".
"These findings have brought into sharp focus the integrity of the Drivers' Licence System with regard to data validation capabilities, as the system should not have allowed the processing of clearly inconsistent data that relate to each other," the report went on to say.
"Individuals who have received their drivers' licence in breach of the Road Traffic Act and the Road Traffic Regulations should be placed on a stop-list and their licences should not be renewed until they have attained the appropriate age and have been duly re-tested," the Auditor General said, adding that these persons may also be disqualified from ever holding or obtaining a driver's licence.
The Auditor General's Report said those who obtained these licences were not the only ones who had breached the Road Traffic Act, as the officers responsible for granting them had also broken the law and "the appropriate disciplinary action should be taken against them".
The report said management of the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), the entity directly responsible for processing and issuing licences, should also ensure that the data validation capabilities of the system are improved to the extent required under the Act.
"Ultimately the IRD must ensure that drivers' licences are only issued to individuals who have attained the appropriate age in accordance with the Road Traffic Act and Regulations," the report read.
In the meantime, concern was also raised over records showing licences were issued by some tax collectorates before they even opened their doors. In the case of the Cross Roads collectorate in St Andrew, which opened in May 2000, records were found for 30 licences issued before May 2000, when the collectorate was not even in existence.
In the case of the Portmore Collectorate of Taxes, the audit found one record originally issued in 1967, although that collectorate opened in July 2008. It also identified two records where the original issuing collectorate was identified as being Spanish Town Road even though there is no branch in that area.
Other discrepancies the Auditor General uncovered had to do with missing place-of-birth records, invalid Taxpayer Registration Numbers (TRN) -- which incidentally are used as Jamaican drivers' personal ID numbers within the drivers' licence system -- duplicate personal TRN numbers and disparities in the drivers' licence validity period. Based on the report, while a driver's licence is usually valid for five years and normally expires on the licensees fifth birthday post-issue, there were 1,459 records with a licence validity period in excess of five years and 1,166,333 records with a license validity period of less than five years.
According to Munroe-Ellis, it was imperative that urgent attention be given to obvious control problems within the licensing regime, as well as to missing data, discrepancies in the ages of some licensees, inconsistent and invalid data, among other disturbing findings raised by the audit.
Last August, the traffic police expressed concern about the number of persons, especially bus and taxi drivers, with duplicate drivers' licences in their possession, suggesting serious irregularities in the Inland Revenue Department's licensing regime.