Weeks after Guardian Media published the story of a Valencia man who said his car was seized after another vehicle with the same registration was discovered, the Transport Commissioner says that problem is far more widespread.
In fact, Transport Commissioner Clive Clarke says there are hundreds of vehicles on the nation’s roads with duplicate registrations.
Clarke made the startling revelation during an exclusive interview with Guardian Media at the Licensing Division’s Caroni Headquarters on Thursday. Two of Clarke’s right-hand officers in the fight against corruption at the division, Motor Vehicle Inspector I, Nirvan Sinanan and Motor Vehicle Supervisor I, Chaka Mc Farlane were also present during the interview.
“According to our records we have over 300 duplicate vehicles in our system right now,” Clarke said.
He said he has tasked Mc Farlane with investigating instances in which there are duplicate registrations of vehicles.
Mc Farlane explained that the division’s previous manual log books contributed greatly to the duplicates being discovered now.
“In the past system that we had, the manual system where numbers were issued to the three divisional offices- San Fernando, Port of Spain and Tobago- the Licensing authority would have been issuing numbers in batches to the various sites. The issue with that is in terms of communication, a vehicle would have been registered in Tobago as PBM 1 and a week later, another vehicle would have been registered in San Fernando with the same registration,” Mc Farlane said.
He said the same numbers were issued to different locations of the division and with no communication between branches, the mistakes were not picked up for years.
Clarke said it was only when vehicle owners went into the Licensing office to get new certified copies, that the error would be identified.
Mc Farlane said there were also instances in which vehicles were fraudulently registered.
“We have duplicates that are not legitimate, and this is where the research gets more in-depth because there are vehicles that are not supposed to be registered like ‘knockdown vehicles’. We have vehicles that are stolen vehicles that carry the same number plate, sometimes we may have vehicles that carry the same chassis,” Mc Farlane said.
He said if a duplicate registration is discovered, he will investigate to determine whether it was done illegally or by mistake from the division. If it was an error by the division, the vehicle will be assigned an available number from the series in which it was originally registered.
Clarke said a major contributor to the duplications was the ‘special registration’ requests. He said when special numbers were requested and assigned at the different licensing offices, it was done manually, with no way for employees to check if the numbers were available.
He said now, a computer programme generates vehicle registration numbers, making it impossible for duplicates to arise.
But Clarke said vehicle registrations were not the only duplicates coming out of the division, as he said the Drivers Permit system was plagued with the same issue.
Because of this, he is considering a complete overhaul of the Drivers Permit system.
“We will need to look at the possibility of issuing a new drivers permit, new design, new style, new security and basically do what we call a call-in, you give a deadline and you change every single permit in Trinidad and Tobago, about 700,000 to sanitise our records,” Clarke said.
When asked about the rumours that drivers permits could be bought at the Licensing Division, Clarke did not deny this.
“You are seeing evidence of documentation for permits where people confessed they paid for it and that is making it more frightening, for that to happen, there must be an aiding and abetting internally, I am not hesitating to say that,” Clarke said.
He said by June 2021, renewals will move to online, cutting out the need for citizens to visit the division’s offices.
He said the division is also bringing mobile units into operation next year, to visit communities and facilitate renewals, new applications and driving tests.