The Hon. Ezzard Miller, Leader of the Official Opposition, has raised concerns about the Cabinet’s announced amnesty for owners of unlicensed vehicles, particularly with respect to the waiving of a backlog of millions of dollars in fees owed to Government.
“I am disappointed to see that the amnesty includes a waiver of the backlog of licensing fees, given that transgressors should be easily trackable in a timely way based on properly maintained file data,” Mr. Miller said.
The waiving of fees, he said, is particularly troubling when Government is at the same time prosecuting Caymanians through the courts for unpaid medical bills, Mr. Miller said.
“By waiving the large backlog of licensing fees,” Mr. Miller said, “the Government is falling back on the politically motivated non-punitive, forgiving position, because they have found themselves facing the embarrassment of not having insisted on the enforcement of the law as fees become due.”
This consistent neglect of duty,” Mr. Miller said, “is what leads to the breakdown of respect for the law.”
Mr. Miller said, however, that the situation being what it is now, as the Government faces the discomfiture of this huge backlog, he could “accept a waiving of prosecution once outstanding fees are paid up in immediate response to the amnesty, even though in so doing we are turning a blind eye to the fact that operating an unlicensed vehicle on the road is a criminal offence under the Traffic Law.”
But, he said, extending the amnesty to the waiving of “all collectable unpaid licensing fees, is beyond unacceptable—it is unconscionable.”
“How can we justify prosecuting people through the courts because they were sick and could not pay bills, while we waive unpaid vehicle licensing fees and deprive government of substantial revenue which is needed to maintain the roads?” Mr. Miller asked.
As background, according to press reports on Thursday (April 26) there are some 37,000 unlicensed vehicles, each owing a minimum of $180 per year, totalling a minimum of $6 million annually. Reports further indicate that some of the backlog goes back to as far as 2004.
“How did we get into this mess?” Mr. Miller asked. “Where is the administrative accountability of the Department of Vehicles and Drivers’ Licensing for the collection of the fees and the RCIPS for the enforcement of the law?”
“This demonstrates the perennial problem of successive Cayman Islands Governments — the lack of enforcement of the laws on the books fully and properly and in a sustained way,” Mr. Miller said.