Police officer Sastri Jaisumair, uses a speed gun to check on drivers’ speed, during an exercise, on the Uriah Butler Highway, Charlieville yesterday.

The collaborative efforts by several ministries over the past year to clamp down on reckless and errant drivers has resulted in the Ministry of Works and Transport (MOWT) copping the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) 2020 award for innovation.

The MOWT was a finalist in last year’s competition.

However, this year their crowning glory was the establishment of the U-Turn System – a software which was developed through the team effort of the Judiciary of T&T and ministries of National Security, Public Utilities and MOWT that earned them the prestigious title.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and his permanent secretary Sonia Francis-Yearwood beamed with pride at their Port-of-Spain office recently as they spoke about the coveted award which they won on December 10.

Sinanan said the IDB award was developed out of the need to showcase and recognise localised innovative solutions and efforts to provide gold standard service delivery in the public sector.

The award is tied to the third pillar of the IDB’s group’s 2016 to 2020 country strategy with T&T which focused on strengthening public sector institutions and governance.

Francis-Yearwood said the award was divided into two categories-customer service and innovation.

She said the ministry submitted their U-Turn System project which provides real time connectivity among the MOWT, judiciary, T&T Police Service, TTPost, Traffic Enforcement Centre and Licensing Division with the issuing of electronic fixed penalty tickets to drivers who commit road infringements.

It also documents how many demerit points motorists accrue on their driving permits when they violate road laws.

The introduction of the red light and spot speed cameras also zero in on reckless drivers.

This system which went into effect in June also offers a new platform for the payment of traffic fines.

Traffic tickets are no longer paid at magistrate courts which was a cumbersome and lengthy process, Francis-Yearwood said.

Drivers can now pay their fines at any TT Post office.

“The ministry was one of 44 competitors in the innovation category,” Francis-Yearwood said.

In narrowing down the competitors, Francis-Yearwood said the IDB selected four finalists, the Ministry of Planning and Development, National Energy Corporation of T&T, National Gas Company and MOWT.

Awaiting the results, Sinanan said was nail-biting, as this year the competition was keenly contested by several ministries and its agencies.

“A lot of my Cabinet colleagues had been campaigning for the top prize. But we are really pleased to know that out of a highly competitive venture like that we emerged on top.”

He said the revolutionary U-Turn System signified that ministries can work together for the development and progress of a nation.

“It was not an easy project. What this single project did was remove 140,000 cases from the judiciary. I think the judiciary came down to 6,000 to 7,000 cases by this initiative.”

Between 2009 and 2015, Sinanan said there were 1,135 fatal road accidents and over 150,000 unpaid traffic tickets which pushed the ministries to come up with a comprehensive plan to tackle this issue.

“Using technology we developed a custom software management solution where all stakeholders can share access to a centralised repository of data.”

Such an initiative, Sinanan said has already resulted in a 22 per cent decrease in fatal accidents and a 29 per cent drop in road traffic deaths compared to 2019.

“The judiciary has also recorded a 97 per cent reduction in traffic cases entering the judicial system which has been unclogging the overburdened system. 2020 was a challenging year for our country and the world with the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was a big year for the ministry in terms of its achievements.”