Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan waves as he makes his way to the Red House to attend yesterday’s sitting of Parliament.

Bavita Gopaulchan

Drivers who feared ending up on the wrong side of the law after October 1, now have more time to get their licenses renewed.

The Government has moved to further extend the moratorium for the renewal of drivers’ permits and other documents at Licensing Offices.

Many citizens have been complaining about not being able to secure appointment dates to complete such activity.

Sheriza Alexander told Guardian Media she has been trying for several weeks to book a date to renew her driver’s permit.

“I have been trying from the month of June to July. I wasn’t getting through at all. Every time I try to go onto the system – the online system- it booked up,” she complained.

“I was getting kind of frustrated because it was like every day I have been trying. I even went on Facebook and was asking some of my friends about it and they were telling me that you have to go up on the site all 12 am and 3 am in the morning.”

Minister of Works and Transport, Rohan Sinanan told Guardian Media that the extension was approved by the Cabinet last Thursday. Now, drivers with expired permits or badges have until the end of January 2022 to get them renewed.

“Unfortunately, the amount of permits that would have been expired in a year and the amount of appointment slots that we had, it could not keep up with it and the system is built in such a way that it doesn’t take appointments beyond two months,” Sinanan stated.

Transport Commissioner Clive Clarke also explained that there were approximately 4,000 people trying daily to access the ministry’s website.

“Keep in mind we cannot say if these are for renewal but it is telling you the amount of persons wanting to come to the Licensing Office. There is no way we could accommodate that type of crowd,” Clarke told Guardian Media during an interview at the Ministry of Works and Transport’s head office in Port-of-Spain.

“We currently supply about 70- something permits per day,” he said.

He further explained, “Before closure, we were basically providing close, at some sites, Caroni was close to 200 and the other site was 150, etcetera. Currently, we see about 500 to 600 persons per day for renewals. Just before the pandemic, we were covering approximately 1,500 to 1,800 persons per day.”

The Transport Commissioner announced that measures have been put in place to increase the number of daily appointment slots, in addition to the commissioning of two mobile units.

“Persons coming to renew there will be able to pay at those buses without having to go into the main building itself, therefore, opening up much more appointments for the Caroni site. In addition, we are adding certain services online very soon. We have already awarded a contract for online provisional permits,” Clarke said.

“If you check the appointments, you will now see appointments for this current time. You may not see appointments for the next two months or so because the increase goes by capacity and there will be additional appointments. In addition to that, we will be looking to put two mobile offices on the Caroni Licensing site.”

Clarke revealed that these mobile units, which cost about $2 million, will be operational by the second week in October. He expects that the buses will serve an additional 100 people daily.

He confirmed that more employees will be added to the current rotation roster to ensure that there is sufficient staff to serve customers. There are approximately 350 employees in the Licensing Division.

However, only 50 per cent can operate at the various offices.

Now that more staff will be brought out, Minister Sinanan assured that no COVID-19 protocols will be breached, as there will be adequate social distancing. As for the quality of service by staff members, Clarke revealed that they are currently investing in training exercises to ensure customers are better served.

The Transport Commissioner also noted that they are still awaiting a final piece of equipment for the buses which is coming from Spain.

Once this part is received, Clarke said the buses will be able to move around to the country, specifically targeting rural communities.

The aim, according to both the Minister and Transport Commissioner, is to evetnaully digitalise all the transactions being conducted at the Licensing Division.