Shortage of decals at TAJ raises legal concerns
THE ISSUANCE of a receipt to motorists in lieu of a decal by Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ), which is currently experiencing a shortage of the licence discs, has been described by a senior legal counsel in the Attorney General's Chambers as a breach of statutory duty.
And the failure of a motorist to display the decal as required by law could attract a fine.
Derrick Smith, member of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament deliberating on the Road Traffic Act, raised concerns on Wednesday about the legality of a receipt given to motorists by the TAJ as a temporary substitute for a licence decal.
Responding to Smith's query, Marlene Aldred, senior legal adviser in the Attorney General's Chambers, told the committee that the law requires that the licence decal be displayed.
"If it is that there is an arrangement between TAJ and the Police that they should accept the receipt of payment which is not a licence decal, that's an arrangement made between the parties, but in my opinion, based on what is in the law, there is a breach of statutory duty ... in not issuing the decal, and you could be charged with an offence if you are not displaying your decal," Aldred explained.
Lorraine Graham of the TAJ sought to shed light on the problem facing the tax body. She said a lot of motorists who used to licence their vehicles for a year are now licensing for six months. According to Graham, the TAJ underestimated the number of decals needed this year and is currently out of stock.
Committee chairman Dr Omar Davies wanted to know if the receipt issued by TAJ could be presented to the police as a substitute for the decal. Graham pointed out that the legal department of TAJ held discussions with the police and both parties had reached an understanding. "I am thinking it is legal."
She said the decals are imported, so it could take the motorist two months before one is issued.
Meanwhile, the practice of assigning a licence plate to motorists will come to an end if the new Road Traffic Act is passed in its current form.
TAJ officials advised the committee that under the proposed new statute a licence plate will be assigned to a vehicle permanently.
Executive director of the National Road Safety Council, Paula Fletcher, said the move to assign a licence plate permanently to a vehicle would, among other things, address a number of crime-related concerns.
She said a motorist might have been involved in an accident and subsequently changed the plates to elude the police. She also said licence plates are often changed to facilitate car stealing.