Act now President Koroma, your legacy on the rope!
Blatant Corruption Sinking Sierra Leone
It is Section 26 (c) of the 11th September, 2003 Road Transport Authority (RTA) Amendment Act of Sierra Leone that confers the power for Traffic Wardens to issue tickets for various traffic offences. Where an offender receives a ticket, the prescribed administrative charge should be paid within 72 hours at the nearest office of the Authority. Section 26 (D) requires traffic wardens to “promptly make a report of the offence to the police, giving the circumstances of the offence, the peculiarities of the vehicle, the name of the owner or driver together with such other information as will assist the investigation and successful prosecution of the case”. This can only be done where (a) the offender refuses to accept a ticket; or (b) the offence is not one for which a ticket may be issued. (Photo: Inrahim A Kargbo, author)
Since 2003, the activities and conduct of Traffic Wardens, especially in recent times have become an issue of suspect and they have come under fierce criticisms from commuters, drivers and vehicle owners some of whom have openly threatened to soon protest against this maladministration directly ingraining corruption and breeding untold suffering for the poor. “As they adulterate the very Act establishing their existence RTA administration has recklessly abdicated itself from upholding what the rules governing traffic warden operation prescribes”, an angry commuter laments around Ecowas Street.
It is for instance a customized practice; for once a Warden is convinced that a driver has committed an offence under the “law”, he/she hastily proceed to issue a charge by writing a ticket without recourse to promptly notifying the offender of the said charge nor the 72 hours legal provision, neither informing the police of offenders’ refusing to accept a ticket. Failure to send a copy of the said fine by post to the offender’s address, in as much as they will be quoting the vehicle’s number through which registration they are expected to trace postal addresses invariably indict the country’s indisposed postal system and consequently undermines integrity in their operations. They have for the most part NEVER dared to communicate this fine. When does someone discover he has been fined and how does this breed dishonesty? At the expiration of one’s annual registration and there is need for renewal, some owners have been forced to abandon their vehicles where RTA system would indicate 10, 15, 20 or more tickets of which they never honored (assuming they are aware of it). How can anyone at RTA management explain this in their right senses when Section 26C (1) of the 2003 Amended Act in the SECOND SCHEDULE clearly indicates a sample “TRAFFIC WARDEN TRAFFIC OFFENCE TICKET” in which the Driver’s Name, Driving License Number, Date and Hour of Traffic Offence Committed, Amount and a Prosecution Threat arising from failure to honour the fine within 72 hours from the said date.
A senior Government official revealed in a casual chat that some unscrupulous individuals have often connived with some mischievous Traffic Wardens to ticket certain vehicles they are eyeing to purchase at a lower cost, whereby such vehicles will be issued heaps of tickets to a point that the owner is unable to honour the bill and eventually decides to sell the vehicle at a cost with the discounted number of tickets; do you really doubt that they have a way of working it out at RTA where the number of tickets can be surreptitiously waved for a bribe while the cost of all tickets issued is usually deducted from the total cost for selling the vehicle , depriving owners and subjecting the poor to more poverty?
The power of traffic warden to clamp down or tow vehicles is enshrined in Section 26E of the Act and the present cost for defaulters is Le250,000 (US$55) or more; payment is done at commercial banks, where a slip is issued and taken to Wardens for release of a clamped or towed vehicle. On an individual’s clamped vehicle, there is usually a warden’s phone number, once you call his/her line you are directed to a particular commercial bank where payment should be made.
“Dude my wife is a senior official at Ecobank Bank and you know it right? Cashiers have these printed slips right before them in their cages in abundance, never are they pre numbered nor counted and they are promptly informed about who’s coming over to make payment. Until payment is recorded into the system, there’s absolutely no guarantee that this revenue is genuinely being generated in a transparent and accountable manner. Here’s how it works,” an aggrieved middle cadre public servant laments. “Whether in direct contact between Wardens and banking cashiers, slips are issued without any entry into the system, once they are taken to Wardens and clamped or towed vehicles are released there’s no receipt handed to offenders. You wonder why audit reports are full of such issues as poor documentation in all entities? Now calculate the diversion of about 10 to 20 clamped or towed vehicles per day and determine the scale of public revenue diversion into private pockets”.
But why is the article calling on the president to act now as if he is a traffic warden? Why does it believe that his legacy risks virtual failure whereby such systemic exploitation, abuse, maladministration and diversion of valuable public recourses remain unchecked? Well the 2010 Public Perception Survey on Corruption categorically label the President as CHAMPION who MUST spearhead the fight against corruption followed by ACC leaders, all citizens, the Judiciary, Parliament, ministers and others.
By Ibrahim A. Kargbo
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