Transport Commissioner Clive Clarke, who has been in the position for just about a year, has embarked on the herculean task of eradicating corruption at the Licensing Division, as well as transforming it into a modern, efficient entity.
In that endeavour, for Mr Clarke to succeed in areas where his predecessors have made little or no progress, he will need support, not only from within the Division but from law enforcement and other investigative agencies to completely weed out all of the illicit activities within the Division.
From what Mr Clarke revealed during an exclusive interview with Guardian Media’s Sharlene Rampersad a few days ago, there now is the will to crack down on corrupt practices that have been hampering the Division’s operations for decades. He has his team have managed to identify some suspicious activities and are now working to weed them out.
There have long been claims of questionable practices, but it was still alarming to hear from the commissioner about the hundreds of vehicles with duplicate registrations on the nation’s roads, including some with the same chassis numbers.
He also pinpointed numerous issues with the drivers permit system where he said there has been “an aiding and abetting internally” in some questionable activities. He did not deny reports that drivers’ permits could be bought at the Licensing Division.
Not all the problems at the Division can be blamed on fraud. An antiquated manual system resulted in the same numbers being issued at various locations of the Division. Mr Clarke and his team now must painstakingly sift through manual logbooks to detect these duplicates and determine whether they were done illegally or by mistake. This is an important exercise which needs to be pursued to the end—inclusive of conviction of any individuals inside and outside of the Division found to be complicit in fraudulent activities.
This nation urgently needs a modern and efficient Licensing Division where transactions can be carried out with a high level of transparency and accountability.
As things now stand, there is a high possibility that the reckless and lawless driving culture that makes T&T roadways so safe can be attributed to gaps in the system which have allowed some unqualified people to acquire permits.
Indeed, there can be no challenging of claims that some criminal activities, including vehicle theft and fraudulent transactions, are enabled by what has been allowed to happen for years at the Division’s offices across the country.
The good news is the Division’s operations are being upgraded with computer programmes that will prevent duplications of motor vehicle registrations and underhanded transactions. There will also be a complete overhaul of the drivers' permit system.
The promise of a clean, efficient Licensing Division in 2021, within a year of implementation of amendments to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chap 48:50, which has brought about a tougher system of traffic violations for serious road traffic breaches, is just what T&T needs.
It will be another big step towards safer roads and a healthy driving culture.