Traffic authorities still owed €15.7 million in contraventions and licence fees

Single vehicle allowed not to pay up to €5,461 in contraventions and licence renewal fees

Transport Malta (TM) and the Local Enforcement System Agency (LESA) are still owed €1.7 million and €14 million respectively in unpaid fees in 2016.

The National Audit Office assessed the systems in place at TM for the collection of annual circulation licence fees, and the procedures for the collection of dues from traffic contraventions by LESA. In both cases, the respective agencies’ systems for chasing owed money were lacking.

According to the NAO’s findings, out of a total of over 370,000 registered vehicles, 28,933 had unpaid licence fees, which in turn accounted for 86% of the total €14 million due to LESA from contraventions. €1.9 million was owed by drivers who had paid their car’s licence, of which €483,930 was owed on vehicles that have been scrapped.

The NAO noted in its findings that there was “no formal system in place between TM and LESA to follow-up on, and collect” pending contraventions in such cases. Similarly, it said there was no trace of any efforts made to chase unpaid contraventions on garaged cars. In its reply, LESA said it had recently introduced “an incentive, of a Debt Collection Agreement” which is still currently at the pilot project scale.

On the other hand, the auditor general’s office was satisfied with procedures in place for the accounting of revenue, which it said, “were in place and correctly followed by TM and accordingly reflected in the Departmental Accounting System”.

Moreover, the NAO noted that all relevant documentation at the authority was held in an “organised manner” and had been made available for the audit upon request.

Among the key issues flagged was the that once a contravention is logged into the Local Enforcement System provider – a third party contractor – a restriction on the renewal of the vehicles circulation licence is meant to be generated within Transport Malta’s own register.

This was problematic, said the NAO, since “the fact that the LES is not in a position to extract this report itself but has to rely on its service provider poses a significant risk that unauthorised lifting of contravention tickets may go unnoticed”.

The fact is that a copy of the agreement outlining the relationship between LESA and the LES provider was requested but not provided.

Another issue was with tickets given to the driver rather than the vehicle, such as those handed out for running a red light or using a phone while driving. The NAO said that when sampling a number these contraventions, it could find no trace of the car registration number on Transport Malta’s systems meaning that the money owed was “neither chased nor collected”.

Similarly, it said that while the transfer of a vehicle from one owner to the other required all pending contraventions to be paid, the audit uncovered many occasions where vehicles had pending fines from previous owners.

Exception for vehicle owner

The audit found that in February 2016, 43 tickets, amounting to €1,979, racked up by a particular vehicle were lifted and reapplied five days later, allowing the driver to renew the licence in between.

“Testing also revealed that additional contravention tickets of €3,482 were obtained by the vehicle owner since the licence renewal, and that up to the date of writing of this report, the total contravention tickets of €5,461 remain unpaid,” noted the NAO.

In its reply, LESA said that the driver had signed a repayment agreement in July 2017, “where he deposited €1,000 and would continue to deposit the same amount every month with the aim of paying the amount due within six months.

In most cases, TM pointed out that it was operating according to legal requirements and that the responsibility for collection of contraventions lay solely with LESA.

On its part, the local enforcement agency pointed to a lack of human resources in a number of its replies while also stating that it was working together with TM to put formal procedures in place for the collection of dues, which had previously not been in place.

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