Amnesty rakes in little $
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
LESS than 20 per cent of the outstanding traffic-ticket fines which the Government sought to fish through an amnesty, which expired on Monday, has been collected.
The Ministry of National Security yesterday said almost $340 million was collected from the amnesty, approximately 60 per cent of which was earned on the last day.
The Government had said approximately $2 billion in outstanding traffic tickets was owed by errant motorists and that it was hoping to rake in big bucks for the national Budget. Figures contained in the 2012-2013 Estimates of Expenditure, tabled in the House of Representatives last May, indicate that the Government is seeking to increase its collection over last year's take by $710 million. The Government last year collected $620 million from traffic tickets, slightly less than the $620.1 million collected the previous year.
Last April when the House of Representatives debated and passed the bill for the amnesty, National Security Minister Peter Bunting said it was not the intention of the Government that it becomes business as usual for persons who do not avail themselves of the amnesty.
"We are still going to pursue them, and we will pursue those who did not take advantage of the amnesty even more aggressively," he said.
In the meantime, Bunting said his team is aware that there are persons with unpaid tickets who did not take advantage of the amnesty. He noted that these persons will have to settle these tickets in the Traffic Court when sessions resume on Monday, January 7. Persons for whom warrants have been issued will first need to report to the police before going to Traffic Court.
In a media release issued yesterday, the national security ministry said special arrangements have been made for persons who had started the payment process at the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Traffic Division but did not get the opportunity to complete the process by Monday, December 31, 2012, as the system was overwhelmed.
The ministry said those persons have already been issued stamped documents from the Traffic Division verifying that they had started the process of payment before the end of the amnesty. Such persons must go to a tax office with those documents by tomorrow, January 4, to complete the payment and secure the benefits of the amnesty.
The ministry also said it, along with the Tax Administration Jamaica and the courts, will update and reconcile the databases to determine the accuracy of claims by persons who say they have previously settled fines for tickets which are showing up as unpaid.
"Where persons who have paid for tickets during the amnesty are able to provide proof of prior payment, they will be eligible for a refund," the ministry said.
At the time of the passage of the bill in the House, Bunting said the Government would be reconciling payments made in court with payments that have been made at the tax office to ensure people do not fall victim of double collecting before the amnesty was brought into being.