Major glitch

More than 240,000 paid traffic tickets reflected as outstanding on management system

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 17, 2019

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ADMINISTRATIVE delays in the traffic ticket management system has led to some 242,000 tickets reflecting as unpaid in Government's traffic ticket management database.

This represents 77 per cent of the 309,608 tickets which the Ministry of National Security (MNS) says are outstanding between November 22, 2010 and December 31, 2018.

This total represents a value of $642 million, Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dianne McIntosh, told the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament yesterday.

She said the glitch is as a result of the system not being updated on the back- end, but said the ministry is now seeking to have these “failed payments” reconciled with Tax Administration Jamaica.

McIntosh also pointed to other issues such as jurisdiction which hampers ticket payments when offenders either miss their payment date or opt to challenge the matter in court. “A motorist may reside in Montego Bay but receives a ticket in Kingston (and) in such a case the records may show where such a motorist may be reluctant to return to the parish to have his ticket adjudicated; similarly motorists have been taken into custody and found to have outstanding tickets in multiple parishes and it becomes a logistical challenge,” she explained.

Both the ministry and the police, meanwhile, pointed to a backlog in the court system concerning traffic charges.

“When a motorist goes to court and there is a judgement issued or a fine imposed that is entered into the same traffic ticket management system... after the entry there needs to be an authorisation of that transaction so that it reflects as the ticket being closed out. From the motorist's standpoint the issue is closed (but) from the system it is still outstanding because it is awaiting that second authorisation,” said Arvel Grant, director of modernisation at the MNS.

The security ministry said among the solutions which have been employed to rectify the problem is the designation of more authorising officers in the courts.

But Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice Carol Palmer was adamant that the matter was not as simple as that.

She argued that while the ministry is not directly involved with the traffic ticketing system, the judiciary has long had problems, and that the new chief justice had in fact written to the Ministry of Justice about the issue.

Palmer said following consultations a list of the problems facing the courts with traffic ticket management was submitted to the security ministry.

“It's not a simple fix of an authorising officer. That's a band-aid for what the court needs because what we have is a traffic ticketing system that meets the need of the police and it does not meet the needs of the court. This is a perennial problem that we have raised. For example, the court is not represented on the transformation team. The court is the adjudicating arm of the Jamaican society and if we want the court to work well it has to be involved in the plans and preparations that are being made for whatever system it is to work with,” Palmer told the House committee. She noted, for example, the proposal to have an electronic ticketing system, saying the legal framework does not exist to facilitate this in the court system. “It cannot work…I'm not blaming anybody but we have to get serious about this traffic ticketing system. And everybody needs to be at the table,” she stated.

At the same time, the security ministry said demerit points are not assigned to persons driver's licence for a road traffic offence unless their tickets are paid.

Currently it is the court which assigns points, but Palmer again pointed out that the court only comes into focus when a licence is up for suspension or if the person challenges the ticket.

“If the majority of tickets are paid in the revenue service the court would not have had an opportunity to assign any points… so let us not just be flippant about saying it is the court that assigns points. It is not so. If the matter is not adjudicated in the court, the court is not assigning any point,” she argued.


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