By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
OFFICIALS from the Road Traffic Department yesterday confirmed that an investigation is underway to determine the source of several “fake” licences that have turned up for renewal in recent weeks.
Road Traffic Controller Ross Smith yesterday called the matter an “ongoing problem”, one he claimed the department had first noticed in the months following its change in system.
The system change came in December of 2016 as a part of $8m automated system announced and introduced by the former Christie administration.
Mr Smith said officials and general staff recognised that several drivers applying for renewed licences in the months since the system change, possessed licence cards that either “looked wrong” or exhibited a lack of security details applied to the old cards.
“That’s when we realised that we had an issue,” Mr Smith said. “So from that point to now, we’ve worked to find these persons, analysing their cards while they wait and then turning the matter over to police.”
He continued: “We’ve noticed as the months have gone on since the initial finds, we’ve seen more and more.”
Asked if he could say how many fake licence cards the department has seen since the new system’s introduction, Mr Smith said he could not say exactly.
However, he later noted that five to six “fake cards” were identified this week alone.
Chief Superintendent Solomon Cash, officer-in-charge of the Central Detective Unit (CDU), yesterday confirmed that police have arrested two persons who were reportedly in procession of fraudulent licences.
Meanwhile, Mr Smith told The Tribune his department was still working to find the source of the fraudulent cards.
On this point, he said: “This is the difficulty. We have examined these cards for some time now, and we notice that the way they are printed, we can say that they aren’t being printed in our offices with our printers.”
Mr Smith added: “Based on all we’ve seen and all we know, this is a national security matter and that is why the police is now involved.
“The way the system was set up, if a licence was printed here, the system makes a note that we can later refer to when we are doing anything related to that licence.
“When we physically check our old system, there is no record of these licences and that’s the giveaway.”
In an audit conducted at the Road Traffic Department in 2016, Auditor General Terrence Bastian ruled that the department was collecting as little as 36 per cent of due vehicle licencing revenues on New Providence.
Mr Bastian and his team were unwilling to conclude that the Road Traffic Department was collecting just over $1 out of every $3 vehicle licencing dollars due on New Providence, instead finding that this revenue stream was being “under recorded by a minimum of $10 million”.
Mr Bastian and his team also found that the department was in breach of its own Road Traffic Act, which requires it by law to maintain a register of all licenced motor vehicles, their owners, insurers and persons insured to drive them.
Mr Bastian, then, called on the department to “revamp and tailor its processes” to capture such information.
He noted in his report on the department: “It is paramount to the sustainability of the Road Traffic Department that processes are controlled to enable the collection of all, revenue due to the government.”