Motorists whose vehicles have been impounded for 30 days or more, are being given an opportunity to claim their vehicles under a three-month amnesty, which begins on April 15.
Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Hon. Dr. Omar Davies, who announced the amnesty in the House of Representatives on March 21, said the initiative comes again the backdrop of the increasing numbers of vehicles being held by the Transport Authority, while fees continue to mount.
“Currently there are just over 1,400 vehicles in the pounds and the number is growing. The situation demands a bold initiative as no party benefits from the present situation. Furthermore, it is unlikely that in many instances, the outstanding fees can be collected, based on a comparison with the valuation of the vehicles in the pound,” he stated.
The amnesty proposal as approved by the Minister are that: vehicles impounded for less than 30 days will not qualify for the special treatment under the amnesty; if the valuation of a vehicle is greater than the outstanding fees, the Transport Authority will apply a 50 per cent discount to the amount of fees owed; if the valuation is less than the outstanding fee, then the Authority will seek to recover no less than the valuation amount; and vehicles which are not successfully disposed of in the amnesty will be auctioned.
Dr. Davies noted that a preliminary assessment of the outstanding fees and valuations indicate that most of the vehicles will have to be released at their valuation figures.
He informed that during the period of amnesty, in order to have expeditious execution, representatives from the Finance Department of the Transport Authority will be posted at each pound to check vehicle documents, collect payments and issue the relevant receipts. Upon signing a letter of indemnity, the vehicle will be released to the owner.
Opposition Spokesman on Transport, and Member of Parliament for North Central St. Andrew, Karl Samuda, argued that the proposal was too complicated, and suggested that a general cost be charged to all owners across the board, to release their vehicles, on the condition that they abide by the law or face severe consequences, having already committed violations.
Minister Davies agreed to discuss with the Transport Authority, how the provisions of the amnesty could be simplified, but noted that an across the board fee would not be realistic as the value of the vehicles are varied, as are the periods over which they have been impounded. “It could be detrimental to those with vehicles of lower value, which have been in there for a shorter period,” he remarked.
He also acknowledged that there is need to examine the overall transportation system, stating that it is his intent to have “one transportation system” where the rules apply to all operators.
Advisories will precede the commencement of the amnesty, in newspapers on Sunday, March 25, Wednesday, March 28, and Friday, March 30.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Senior Reporter