News

Too hot to process driver's licences

Tax administration offices crippled by AC breakdown

Corey Robinson

Sunday, September 02, 2012    

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FOR more than two months now, machines used to print driver's licences at the Revenue Service Centre in Spanish Town, St Catherine, remain out of service, causing delays and frustration for many customers.

Recent checks by the Jamaica Observer have also revealed that there is unlikely to be any speedy resolution of the problem.

A press release posted on the Tax Administration of Jamaica (TAJ) website on June 26 advised that the processing of driver's licences at the facility had been halted due to problems with the air-conditioning unit.

"The suspension of the driver's licence operations has become necessary due to the discomfort being experienced by customers and staff as well as to protect the sensitive equipment, as a result of the central air-conditioning system malfunctioning," the release stated.

But up to Friday afternoon this was still the case, and TAJ authorities could not say for sure when it would be fixed.

"It hasn't been rectified as yet; we are still working to get it sorted out," Leighton Beckles, communications officer at the TAJ, told the Sunday Observer.

"There are a whole number of things that are taken into account as it relates to what comprises the system, which, because of the nature of driver's licences and security, I wouldn't be in a position to divulge," he said, adding that he was unable to say why the repairs were taking so long.

The Sunday Observer learned last week that operations at the Spanish Town Revenue Centre's licencing department has been greatly impacted by the loss of the use of the machines with workers complaining of having to handle a heavy backlog of applications.

"It stopped working about seven weeks now, and, as a result, we have stopped printing the licences here. We collect the applications, but we send them elsewhere to get them printed," said one worker.

The employee — who declined to be named as he did not have authorisation to speak to the media — identified the May Pen Revenue Service Centre in Clarendon as one of the offices to which applications are being sent to be processed.

However, the printing machine at that location also broke down in recent weeks, said the worker, further complicating the situation.

"There is a backlog, and we are under pressure because Spanish Town (branch) serves other areas like Linstead and Portmore. So all of those applications are coming in and are waiting to be processed," explained the employee, noting that more recent applications are being sent to the downtown Kingston branch.

"Persons (customers) who come in, like, today may get through before those who brought in applications two weeks ago because the earlier applications would still be in the system at May Pen, while the later ones would be sent downtown," explained the worker, lamenting the pressure that the staff has been placed under.

On Friday, Beckles said he could not immediately speak to the backlog of applications at the Spanish Town branch. He confirmed, however, that applications were being sent elsewhere to be processed.

He was also unable to say how much money it is costing the TAJ to process them at other locations.

Patrick Williams, a first-time motor vehicle licence applicant, complained to the Sunday Observer that he was frustrated with the "bag a run-around" he has faced while trying to collect his licence over the course of the last three weeks.

"Up to now I can't get my licence. They (workers) said the machine bruck down and they send me to Clarendon. I went there and dem say that machine break down now," said Williams.

The Sunday Observer sought additional information on the issue from Meris Haughton, communications director at TAJ. Haughton, however, declined to speak specifically to the situation at Spanish Town, but noted that critical machines used in processing the licences have had to be shut down in the past because the sensitive equipment could not function in the elevated temperatures in the offices where they are located.

"It has happened at other locations before, but I cannot confirm that that is what is happening at Spanish Town," said Haughton, noting that the machines are usually turned off in the afternoon when their surroundings become too hot.

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