Traffic fines ditched

29 August 2013 - 02:43 By OLEBOGENG MOLATLHWA
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A police officer giving a traffic fine. File photo.
A police officer giving a traffic fine. File photo.
Image: Times LIVE

More than 2.4-million traffic fines issued by the Johannesburg metro police before the end of June don't have to be paid because of a major postal bungle by the cops.

The metro police have admitted that the fines are considered "stale" and will eventually be deemed "null and void".

The JMPD has spent more than R60-million issuing the fines. But it did so by "secure mail" and not by registered mail. And the fines were issued "outside the prescription period" stipulated in the Administrative Adjudication of Road Offences (Aarto) Act.

This is revealed in a status report on the Aarto system by the Department of Transport.

"The cases that cannot be complied with in terms of an enforcement order will eventually need to [be] cancelled/withdrawn from the e-Natis [Electronic National Traffic Information] system," the report states.

The JMPD issues about 400000 traffic fines a month.

The release of the report is at a time when the government has expressed pessimism about the national implementation of the Aarto system.

Pointing to the never-ending problems plaguing the pilot programme in Tshwane and Johannesburg, transport officials believe the system will collapse when it is implemented countrywide.

"If the current obstacles experienced with Tshwane, Johannesburg, the Road Traffic Infringement Agency and the Road Traffic Management Corporation are an indication of how the roll-out will take place, the national roll-out is doomed to fail before it has started," says the Department of Transport report.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation has denied this. Its spokesman, Fakazi Malindisa, said that the statement was "an exaggeration of the challenges being experienced in rolling out Aarto".

Problems identified so far include that:

  • It took three years to arrange the financing of posting first-infringement notices by registered mail;
  • Fewer than 5% of infringement notices sent by registered mail are complied with; and
  • All infringement notices are invalid because the Road Traffic Infringement Agency failed to comply with the requirement that it send courtesy letters and enforcement orders.

Central to the malfunctioning of Aarto is the Road Traffic Infringement Agency, which is intended to collect fines on behalf of issuing authorities.

The report reveals that the agency has not got the money it needs to do its job.

The agency is crippled by the high cost of serving infringement notices, courtesy letters and enforcement orders.

Because it was unable to send out courtesy letters and enforcement orders, "all infringement notices are legally null and void".

The Department of Transport notes that this "makes all law enforcement fruitless and wasteful expenditure", including the R60-million spent by the Johannesburg metro on sending out infringement notices by the end of June.

As a result, the department has resolved to fund the agency to the tune of R40-million a month.

The department or the Treasury, it was suggested in the report, would lend the agency R171.5-million over the next 10 months to enable it to serve courtesy letters and enforcement orders as prescribed by law.

It is hoped that the agency would then be in a position "to sustain itself".

The refusal of so many motorists to pay fines has severely hampered the implementation of Aarto.

In 2011-2012, more than 1.7million notices, representing fines totalling R980-million, were issued.

But tickets that should have brought in R893-million were unpaid.

Motorists might eventually be made to pay for the R2.6-billion the authorities are battling to collect as Aarto tries to stay afloat.

The Transport Department's report suggests doubling the average traffic fine from R500 to R1000 and increasing the charge for courtesy letters and enforcement notices from R60 to R100.

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