Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan.

At least 20 officers at the Licensing Division are currently under suspension for unethical and fraudulent practices on the job. The disclosure came from Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan days after Transport Commissioner Clive Clarke admitted to Guardian Media that corruption and bobol were rampant at Licensing Offices across the country.

However, Sinanan and the Clarke did not divulge further information as the matters are under investigation and some may even reach as far as the court.

Among the issues Clarke and a small team of licensing officers have been fighting against are duplicate registration of vehicles, buying of driver’s permits, and vehicles being fraudulently registered.

Asked about the fraudulent matters that have tarnished the reputation of Licensing Office for years, Sinanan, speaking in the presence of Clarke at his Port-of-Spain office on Tuesday, said the problem stemmed from the division’s archaic paper-based system.

In 2017, Sinanan said, the ministry began rooting out corruption when they started to computerise the system.

“There was a lot of pushback because some people did not want that to happen. And that exercise has shown a lot of the flaws in the system. We are getting to the point where we will be able to identify the people who are doing it. Over the last two years, we have had about over 20 people who have been under investigation for these unethical practices and we continue to be stern on that,” Sinanan said.

“There is no service at the Licensing Office where you have to pay an employee to help you.”

He said if there was a demand for unethical practices, supply will always be high.

“There will only be corrupt officers at the Licensing Office if there is a demand for them. The problem at the Licensing Office is that the system allowed for that because nobody wants to go to the office and spend two and three days to get a simple thing like a transfer done.”

Sinanan said if the owner of a truck loses three days’ work valued $6,000 to get a truck inspected, “you wouldn’t think it hard to pay somebody $1,000 to bring that certificate home for you cause you can save $5,000. Those were some of the things that were happening.”

In a bid to reduce delays and long lines, he said his ministry has begun to offer online services.

“So you should only have to go to the Licensiong Office if you have a problem.”

Next year, he said, mobile licensing units will drive into rural communities to offer services to members of the public.

“We are going to have that in the first or second quarter of 2021 where in all the rural areas these mobile units will drive in on specific dates so nobody would have to leave their area to come into Port-of-Spain, Arima, or Sangre Grande to get simple things done.”

Minister disappointed a PoS cashiers failed to show up for work, leaving longs lines of frustrated cutomers

Sinanan also expressed disappointment on Tuesday that two cashiers at the Port-of -Spain Licensing Office did not show up for work, causing long lines and frustrated customers.

“If the systems have to work, public servants must be part and parcel of success. This morning (Tuesday) was a clear case of where the public servants failed the ministry. This was another case of public servants dropping the ball.”

Clarke said licensing normally has two regular cashiers on duty but they applied for leave.

The two replacement cashiers, however, also failed to show up for work.

He said a cashier from the Caroni’s Licensing Office had to be shifted to Port-of-Spain to ease up the congestion.

“The challenge we had in my view is that the information (the absence of the cashiers) should have reached the authorities much earlier. And we have put things in place to address that. In other words, we are saying if by 8 am you discovered there was a deficiency that should have been triggered so we have someone there.”

Clarke said this incident was nothing more than a communication breakdown.

He said customers should have more than one option to pay for a service,

Next July, Clarke said, all Licensing Offices will be equipped with self-service kiosks. In the event a cashier stays home, a customer can still make a payment using their credit or debit cards.

Clarke added, “In the past, though, what we discovered with the systems at licensing is that a number of the ills that took place, there were no proper audit trails. You had evidence disappearing.”

He said measures have since been put in place to scan critical documents such as transfer and applications form.

“So because of these computerised transactions we can now trace the individuals. Because of the digitisation process, we can trace beyond the person who is punching the information into the computer because sometimes they are the least involved. Sometimes it may be other entities and we could not trace and track signatures and the workflow,” Clarke said.