BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Observer senior reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
THE Kingston and St Andrew Corporation's (KSAC) attempt to name and shame 163 businesses into paying their trade licenses has fallen woefully short, with only 42 of the 163 operations named have so far paid up.
In December, the KSAC posted the names and addresses of the "delinquent" businesses — the majority of which are retailers — in notices in the print media warning them that "failure to comply within five working days of the notice" would "result in legal action".
The Trade Licence Compliance Initiative, launched by Mayor of Kingston Senator Angela Brown Burke on September 3, follows on the heels of a similar effort by her predecessor Desmond McKenzie and is being done in partnership with the Tax Administration of Jamaica (TAJ).
However, some businesses seem unmoved by the appearance of their names and particulars in black and white.
"One hundred and sixty-three business names were published and the information before us is that 26 per cent became compliant as a result of that notice," Councillor Andrew Swaby, the deputy mayor, told the Jamaica Observer.
For example, only the operators of 20 of the 57 businesses in Cross Roads that were published have become compliant since then.
In downtown Kingston, 15 businesses were named but only four became compliant while in New Kingston of the 91 businesses that were published only 18 became compliant.
"What it speaks to overall is that because the fee is just a mere $5,000 people tend not to want to bother to pay and persons, at times, will try to push their luck until they see that you are very firm on it," the KSAC deputy mayor said.
However, he said the KSAC was not out of options and will pull out all the stops to get the monies owed.
"We have to be firm on this one because it is a part of our revenue and KSAC has to provide certain services and it takes cash to provide these services," Councillor Swaby said.
"We just got the data because we have to rely on information from the Tax Administration of Jamaica because the fees are paid at the tax office, we are doing a proper report to go to the Finance Committee for action which is to consult our lawyers on the legal steps open to us," he said, noting that the KSAC will also be making recommendations.
In the meantime, the deputy mayor, responding to protests from persons who said they were duly paid up but still named, said such cries were unfounded.
"Persons have raised those issues and we have done our investigations and I have not seen one case that says these persons are correct," Councillor Swaby insisted.
The KSAC had originally projected that it could collect some $75 million in revenue from the initiative. The figures now staring the KSAC in the face is nothing less than woeful.
"We are new as an administration and we are trying to establish what that figure is, we have made projections but we are way below," Swaby told the Observer.
The exercise, however, is not all lost and persons cannot count themselves as having escaped the KSAC, the deputy mayor warned.
"We are using this exercise... [to build] a database to ensure that in the future we can project correctly," he said.
Currently, only about $10 million is being collected annually for trade licences.
The KSAC has revealed that whereas revenue collected for trade licences in July was $261,000, between September 3 to 9, after the initiative began, $1.5 million was collected.
But it also said several irregularities have surfaced, one such being that some individuals found operating several different businesses that should each have a trade licence, only one have a trade licence.
The KSAC also found that a number of the businesses were not registered while some businesses were found to be operating under a name other than that on their trade licences.
Some enterprises were also guilty of not displaying the trade licence certificate as required by the law.
Currently, the Trade Licence fee is set at a maximum of $5,000 for large companies.