By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Road Traffic Department’s top executive yesterday pledged it will “burn the midnight oil” to alleviate a massive licensing backlog caused by March being commercial vehicle month.
Ross Smith, the Department’s controller, acknowledged that it was “facing some challenges” due to the sheer volume of vehicles arriving for their annual inspection and licensing.
This has combined with Road Traffic’s new computer registration system to produce what one businessman yesterday described as “constant chaos” over the past week as March comes to a close.
Tribune Business was informed by several sources that the Road Traffic Department has run out of the new vehicle license plates on several occasions.
Auto dealers are understood to have encountered delays in having leased vehicles licensed and inspected, causing problems when it comes to returning them to clients.
And the Government’s desire to close off tax loopholes has added to the bureaucracy, with companies needing to prove they have paid Business License fee and National Insurance Board (NIB) contributions before their vehicles are inspected.
“We are facing some challenges but it’s nothing that we can’t handle,” Mr Smith reassured yesterday. “We are prepare to work overtime to ensure that we meet all deadlines. That is what we are doing.”
He added that the Department had extended its operating hours to 12.30am to facilitate vehicle licensing and inspection, but acknowledged that the back-up was due in large part to the fact that March is the month for company vehicles.
“With a new system in place, and trying to input all of that information about every company, it can be very challenging. We are prepared to work overtime to ensure that we meet the deadline and get everyone covered,” Mr Smith told this newspaper.
Bahamas Bus & Truck’s general manager, Ben Albury, told Tribune Business: “It just feels like constant chaos. Several times they have run out of license plates. I have had a gentleman there to license a vehicle. He’s been there since 10am in the morning and it’s mid-afternoon, and he’s still there.
“The problem, too, I feel is that there is a lack of training. No one seems to understand what the requirements are. You’re back and forth for information that should or shouldn’t be provided. For some other dealers they’re requiring certain information, and for me it’s something else.
“We knew that transferring to the new system there should be improvement, but this has been months now. Bureaucracy is something that we are not short of in this country.”
A letter writer, Simon Rodehn, recently expressed similar frustration with the documentation requirements to license six commercial vehicles.
In his letter to The Tribune, Mr Rodehn said: “Road Traffic officials tell me that in order to license my vehicles I need to prove all the things I needed to prove for my Business License all over again, even though I have provided them with my Business License, including whether I have paid my employees’ National Insurance.
“I am in no frame of mind to go through the list of things they need just to pay them a considerable amount (+$3,000) in license fees to use my vehicles on the road. This is outrageously stupid that our Government, which is the epitome of inefficiency and non-productivity, should introduce redundant waste of time systems that do nothing other than tie business people up in red tape to collect fees.”
Mr Smith told this newspaper yesterday: “If you own a business you have to bring in a Business License. You can’t just come in and say that you are a business. We are pushing people to ensure that they bring in those supporting documents.”
The manufacturing of vehicle license plates will now be done by inmates at the Bahamas Department of Corrections, in a bid to address shortages and reduce costs.
At a press conference yesterday morning on the issue, Mr Smith said: “I believe there’s going to be significant savings; one because we have up-to-date equipment, not the old antiquated equipment.
“And so once you have equipment that is more up to date, 21st century focused, we should be able to produce plates much cheaper than we ordinarily produce them. With the actual raw material being used, along with the labour, we should be well under $10 for the production of plates.”