Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
Members of the Tax Administration of Jamaica (TAJ) yesterday combed through their databases as they sought to iron out a major ticketing snag that has drawn the ire of several members of the motoring public.
The blunder came a day after the Ministry of National Security publicised that its traffic ticket amnesty had got under way.
Yesterday, as persons moved to take advantage of the amnesty, there were widespread complaints from individuals who claimed their names were being featured in the TAJ database for non-payment on traffic tickets despite having completed payments on those tickets some time before.
Cases thrown out
One motorist who asked not to be named complained that of the five offences listed against him on the TAJ's website, two had been thrown out by the courts.
Another motorist had a similar story. The system lists four traffic violations against him but he said two were paid at the tax office while the others were dismissed by the court. One letter writer identified as S. Williams also complained that the website did not have accurate information.
"When I checked if I had outstanding tickets, I saw three tickets which I have paid," Williams said.
"I was only checking as my co-workers have expressed concern that they are seeing tickets outstanding which have all been paid for. It seems as if all these tickets were just uploaded in the system without anyone checking to see if they are paid or not."
Meanwhile, a St Andrew man was bemused that the system had him owing $37,500 for seven offences, even though according to him, he cleared his tickets years ago.
The public outcry was enough to anger lobby group, Citizens Action for Principle and Integrity (CAPI) which called for National Security Minister Peter Bunting to immediately address the issue, adding that "the matter is causing much disquiet among Jamaicans who are of the view that they are being cheated, in an effort to boost the government's revenue intake".
The amnesty, which is designed to address a significant backlog of unpaid traffic ticket fines, came into effect on July 1, 2012 and will last for six months. During the amnesty, an offender who pays the fine in full on a qualifying traffic ticket will be completely cleared of the offence. All attached penalties, including loss of points, and the obligation to attend court will no longer apply.
Yesterday, communications officer at the TAJ, Leighton Beckles, in seeking to shed light on the matter, told the The Gleaner that the foul-up was due to a cross-referencing discrepancy with two ticketing databases.
"We have two databases, one with traffic ticket information and one with payment information. Tickets that are eligible for the amnesty are tickets that were issued before September 21, 2010 which are taken from an older database. There is a cross referencing exercise being done to ensure that the payments matched the outstanding tickets, which is where we have the problem."
Beckles added: "The team is working to resolve the matter so we expect a reduction in discrepancy cases by the end of the week."
He said as the team works to address the problem persons should check with the Ministry of National Security or the TAJ before making payments.
Asked yesterday for the estimated number of persons affected, Beckles said: "I wouldn't be able to give you an estimate but what I can say is that the discrepancies are enough for our team to actually look at making sure to resolve the situation in the shortest possible time."
He added: "We understand it poses a slight inconvenience for the taxpaying public. We understand the anxiety that a lot of people are facing now, it does delve into the credibility issue, but what the team is doing is to go through to ensure that these case-by-case discrepancies are resolved."
The communications officer claimed that despite the setback most persons were still able to view correct information on the database.
Yesterday the Ministry of National Security, while acknowledging the problem, called for persons to make a report if they notice any discrepancy.
The ministry said an investigation and appropriate reconciliation would be promptly performed as soon as a complaint is made.
In the meantime, head of the Police Traffic Division, Senior Superintendent Radcliff Lewis told The Gleaner that his office had received more than 20 calls from persons complaining. He used the opportunity to caution persons not to use this opportunity to try and beat the system.
Tax authority rushes to fix bungled record keeping
Persons may call the Ministry of National Security's phone bank for details related to the amnesty or to make queries about available information at 928-2155, 928-3450, 928-9831, 928-4181, 930-3505, 930-0141 or 930-0042.