Mr. Rohee: I rise to move the second reading of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill of 2012 - Bill No. 5/2012, which was published on the 8th of June of this year.
As set out in the explanatory memorandum, to this Bill, the Bill seeks to amend the Summary Jurisdiction Procedure Act. We wish to seek the support of the House to amend section 8 of the principal Act which would require every police officer, and in this specific case it would be a traffic rank, who is responsible for issuing a traffic ticket to, unlike in the past, submit a copy of the ticket to the Officer in Charge (OC) of the police station in the given station district. Apart from submitting a copy of the ticket to the OC of the station, he is also obliged to present a copy to the Clerk of Court in the magisterial district where the offence was committed.
Mr. Speaker: Is it on the wrong Bill?
Hon. Members (Opposition): It is on the wrong Bill.
Mr. Speaker: Set up some sign post and you can find your way back to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill.
Mr. Rohee: Thank you Mr. Speaker and to those Members who were gracious enough to point me to the right…These things do happen.
Mr. Speaker: It is called a senior moment. We all get it from time to time.
Mr. Rohee: Now that they have a sneak preview of what I was going to say in the second Bill, let me, for the purpose of the honourable House and the Members, refer to the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill.
This Bill seeks to amend section 18 of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, chapter 51:02, to provide for the renewal of motor vehicle licence on the anniversary of the date when the vehicle was registered, instead of, what we have now, where the vehicle is registered or the licences are issued on the expiry of the 31st of December. Instead of proceeding on an annualised basis with respect to the renewal of the licences, we are now seeking to amend the Act so that the action to renew the licence be done on the anniversary date, meaning the date when the vehicle was originally registered. The date in relation to the payment of the fees for new vehicles will remain the same – date of the first registration.
You may recall, Mr. Speaker, that, sometime ago, the Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), who is responsible for the collection of revenue, while the Ministry of Home Affairs is responsible for the administration of the Act…The responsibilities are split, in the sense that GRA, which is the agency that is tasked with the responsibility of collecting revenue, had published a notification, somewhat, along these lines. The mischief with that publication was that we did not have the necessary amendment to the Act in place at that time. With all of the events that had passed during that period – campaign for elections, elections, setting up of the Parliament and so many other things - with the passage of time, and notwithstanding the fact that Members of the public have been notified by the GRA that it were going to take such action, we, at this level, in consultation with the GRA, considered it appropriate to amend the Act, so that when the GRA takes the action that it is expected to take, in so far as the registration and the licensing of the vehicles are concerned, it will be acting within the meaning of the law. That is why this amendment is necessary. The responsibilities, therefore, of the GRA are not being interfered with. In fact, this amendment to the Bill is being advanced with a view to facilitate the GRA to proceed, within the law, in this direction.
I believe, in so far as the owners of vehicles are concerned, that is to say the legitimate owners of vehicles…, because there is nowadays a lot of people driving vehicles around the streets of the city who do not own a vehicle and they are committing criminal offences. That is why the caveat was introduced to say legitimate owners, bona fide owners of vehicles, will not have any difficulty, whatsoever, with this amendment that we look to the House to approve. In fact, I believe it will, to a large extent, ease the congestion that is found to be taken place on an annual basis at the Licence Revenue Office and at some police stations. In fact, at sometimes in the year, if you were to pass at the Brickdam Police Station you would find the vehicles actually circling the wagon, going around the whole block of the police station, waiting to have their registration and fitness in place. This move, I believe, will remove that encumbrance, will remove that inconvenience to the owners of motor vehicles, because what we will find is that if the vehicles are going to be licensed, if the registration of vehicles is going to proceed on the anniversary date, it would make it much easier for those persons to proceed to have their paper work done without waiting long hours, either in front or behind of others to do so.
Approximately ninety-four thousand motor vehicles or motor vehicle licences are required to be processed over a three-month period. I do not think that this is a reasonable proposition that ought to continue in our country, especially recognising the fact that more vehicles are being imported and driven on our roads. If we are to ease this bottleneck we obviously have to find innovative ways to do so. We obviously will have a bottleneck if within three months approximately ninety-four thousand vehicles have to go through this process. This, I believe, is highly inconvenient for persons who own vehicles, and the way to get around that is to amend the Act so as to proceed in this direction.
We also find that this congestion creates the impression that those of us who administer the Act, those of us who are involved at the level of the GRA, at the Licence Revenue Office, seem to be impotent, in the face of more and more vehicles, having to deal with this problem. The media is not always kind in spotting these deficiencies and making much news of them. We would be tackling this problem from several fronts as we proceed in this direction. In the meantime, to improve the situation, even further, the GRA has moved from manual production of the paper work, which is necessary, to electronically generate documents. More locations have been established to facilitate this. Given the fact that we are in the electronic age where governments are moving, as quickly as their resources permit, to generate documents digitally and electronically, we obviously have to move in this direction, having built up the appropriate capacity human resources, from the human resource point of view, and technologically as well.
These are some of the initial points that I would wish to make in moving the second reading of this Bill to amend the principal Act. I look forward to the support of the entire House on this matter.
Mr. Rohee (replying): Thank you Mr. Speaker. I, first of all, wish to thank the Members on the Opposition side of the House for their support. I did not envisage any real raucous over, as was said, a simple matter like this. But may I be allowed to just clarify two or three matters, Mr. Speaker?
The Hon. Member Mr. Felix indicated that the Government broke the law by proceeding with this matter without the necessary legislation in place. I made the point and I think Mr. Felix was paying attention to me, that there was a situation where the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) proceeded. The GRA does not answer to the GRA. The GRA answers to the Ministry of Finance and it is an autonomous agency. When we saw... [Mrs. Backer: That is what you said.] You do not speak for me. I am educated enough to speak for myself. Mr. Speaker, could you protect me from this Deputy Speaker? She is very famous for heckling. She is very famous for trying to put words into people’s mouths and she does not know her place.
Mr. Speaker: I note your comments. Proceed Hon. Minister.
Mr. Rohee: Mr. Speaker, when we recognised that the GRA and the Ministry of Home Affairs were out of sync because the GRA, in its enthusiasm, had moved apace, we then contacted the GRA, and Mr. Felix himself admitted when he spoke about what is likely to happen during a holiday period and what is likely to happen which he inferred to be a traditional occurrence that happened in the Police Force, which he left behind, that it is common place for ranks in the Police Force to shake people down. But that is the force Mr. Felix left behind.
Mr. Felix: Mr. Speaker, on a Point of order. I never said that the policemen would shake people down. All I was alluding to is that the police would observe a breach of the law and that they will act on it when, in fact, it is something beyond the action of the affected citizen - something brought about probably by a Government misstep and that is what I was getting at.
Mr. Speaker: I believe, indeed, Hon. Minister, that the Member never said that they would shake down. The spectre of it was raised. Certainly in my mind, I felt that it could but he did not state that expressly. For me, my mind did go to that possibility.
Mr. Rohee: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I simply sought to paraphrase but the Hansard will speak for itself because, I believe, all the words uttered here are recorded. I would not want to get between yourself and Mr. Felix about what I said and what I did not say. I will rest on that matter.
Simply to say, I thought that I clarified the issue in respect of the GRA moving ahead without having the necessary legislation in place only for the Ministry, subsequently, to draw to its attention that it was necessary to do so. I understand that it has suspended its actions until this amendment has been made. As I said, I am happy that it is likely to be passed. It is not that the Government broke any law. That is a rather broad brush with which to broach this matter. The Government ought to be the least to break any law and this is not a law that the Government will seek to break and to shoot itself in the foot unnecessarily. It is a genuine issue that came up which has to be corrected and, I think, we ought to recognise that steps are being taken now to correct it.
We have recognised the lacuna and that we are dealing with a “kahuna”. I agree with the Hon. Member that there is always room for improvement. In fact, the Hon. Attorney General drew to my attention several Bills which I have with him now to deal with the same Motor Vehicles And Road Traffic Act.
I wish to conclude by saying that there is always room for improvement. We improve as we go along, as we spot the deficiencies and the defects in the law. Based also on general experience on this matter, I believe that we will eventually arrive at some point, there is not going to be a perfect situation; we will never reach the stage of perfection in respect of laws. And those who enforce the law, whether the License Revenue Office (LRO) or at the Guyana Police Force, we will always have problems and issues there. I have always maintained that the weakest factor in law enforcement is the human factor. It all depends on how we train these people to enforce the law.
In closing, I wish to move that this Bill be read a second time.