Wade C. L. Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org
Liberia could be losing millions in United States dollars to non-compliant vehicle owners who over the years fail to register their vehicles and fail to comply with government insurance policy, recent data from the ministry of transport shows.
Appearing on the Super Morning show on state radio ELBC, Transport Minister Angela Cassell Bush disclosed that government has generated US$1.1 million as a result of the recent inspection and enforcement of the policy on vehicle registration and insurance.
The government almost a month ago embarked on the enforcement of the compulsory third party insurance and vehicle registration, which has mainly been taking place in the Montserrado County area. Police, Transport ministry and Liberia Revenue Authority agents have been seen in the streets inspecting vehicles, something which has caused many non-compliant vehicle owners to take their vehicles off the streets and others who can afford have been force to comply.
Speaking during the state radio interview on Monday, Minister Cassell said thousands of vehicles have been plying the streets without proper documentation and insurance. This she said has robbed the government of seriously needed revenue in millions of dollars.
“In terms of dollar value for the government, revenue generation is US$1.1 Million in revenue generation; that is what the team out there has been able to generate,” said Minister Cassell Bush.
“We started the exercises about a month ago and you’ll be surprised, the report on my desk shows that 8,500 vehicles have been plying our streets without proper registration documents.”
The minister said there are currently 18,000 pre-printed plates in the country and urged those who have paid to collect the plates from the ministry because it seems people are not coming forward for the new plates.
The ministry introduced a new license plates system and began what many called an abrupt vehicle inspection in late May which left passengers especially school children business people stranded due to unnecessary traffic created by the inspection team.
The new plates include Alphanumeric numbering system and some are beginning to appear on vehicles in Monrovia. Transport Minister Cassell Bush said the reason for the new plate is also to ensure the security of citizens and private property.
“Each of these things has a meaning for us at the ministry of transport. The private plates the blue ones, they have categories A1 to A6,” she said on Monday.
“As the numbers gets bigger it tells you outright the size of the car that it should be on based on the curve weight of the vehicle. A5 will probably be a description for a pathfinder, (the first two numbers tells you the description), A1 will be a sedan, A6 will be more of the bigger cars the V8.”
She said the new system of plates forbids vehicle owners from swapping plates from one vehicle to the other.
Said Cassell Bush: “We have common practice around here where sometimes you take one plate and put it on one car and you take another and put it on the other; if you take an A5 plate and put it on an A1 vehicle our inspectors and the police are trained to automatically detect that and you would be pulled on the side of the streets.”
She said the ministry is challenged by the duplication of license plates on the market adding that the ministry has been burdened with the fluid in the system which it needed to correct.
“If you look at the new plates, we’ve embedded warranty marks on the plates for traceability. It will also help law enforcement officers during the enforcement period and to avoid duplication,” she said.
“Another key feature of the new plates is retro reflective sheeting. What that means is it’s of better visibility in the dark or at night time to spot these plates. We issued these plates not only for registration purposes but also data collection and also national security reasons.”
The ministry has signed a US$ 1.5 Million contract with Union Strong Group in March of last year to procure the new license plates according to Minister Bush. She said vehicle owners will be held accountable for proper documentation of vehicles.
“You have to renew on the anniversary date, say if I applied in May, I have to renew in May of next year. You are also required to have a compulsory third party insurance. You are also required to have a valid driver’s license. So if you see our inspectors on the field today, those are the three things they’re looking for.”
Motorists have complained of extortion by police officers and Transport Ministry inspection teams currently inspecting vehicles. One taxi Driver Mohamed Fofana said his vehicle has been parking at home because he cannot afford the exorbitant bribery fees charged by the inspection team in order to evade the system.
“I parked my car because I don’t have money to bribe the police. The other day they impound my car and made me to pay US$10.00 before it was released,” Fofana said.
Like Fofana many taxi drivers do not put their vehicles on the streets for fear they could be arrested and made to pay extra fees in bribes to police officers. But revelations by the transport minister shows that the Liberian government over the last ten years lost close to US$12 million because people were not paying vehicle registration fees into government coffers.