The National Audit Office has called on Transport Malta to improve control of the contraventions collection system after it found that, in one case, tickets were suspended (lifted) by the Local Enforcement System Agency (Lesa), only to be re-applied once a vehicle’s licence was paid.
In its audit of Transport Malta as part of its annual public accounts report, the NAO highlighted a series of shortcomings related to contraventions, including a case of irregular suspension of the fines.
According to the NAO, in one such case, 43 tickets amounting to €1,979 in fines and issued to a particular vehicle, were suspended on February 24 last year and then re-applied just over a month later.
The NAO found that the vehicle’s licence was renewed in the intervening period.
On who ordered the suspension of the contraventions, the NAO said an e-mail from Lesa to the system provider, requesting the suspension, was traced despite there being no form of payment agreement between the owner of the vehicle and the agency.
Other investigations by the audit office also revealed that an additional €3,482 in contravention tickets were issued to the vehicle owner since the licence renewal, bringing the total of unpaid fines to €5,461.
In its recommendations to the transport watchdog, the NAO said requests for the lifting of contraventions should only be considered “against a valid reason and preferably after a signed payment agreement is in place”.
On the lifting, the transport watchdog told the NAO that this did not fall within its remit as it was Lesa which handled contraventions. In a reaction, the Lesa management told the NAO that the owner of the vehicle had signed a repayment agreement in July and would be repaying the amount due over a six-month period.
Questions by the Times of Malta to Lesa on the lifting of contraventions were not answered by the time of writing.
Identifying other shortcomings, the NAO also called on the transport authority to introduce enforcement mechanisms to collect pending contraventions when vehicles are to be scrapped or garaged.
It also called for the implementation of a system to collect fines in cases when the vehicle has already been scrapped.
TRANSPORT MALTA REACTION
In a reaction today after the publication of the above story, Transport Malta said:
"The system is effective and as the NAO states, this particular case occurred after the owner agreed to repayment terms with Lesa. Transport Malta does not run the contravention system. The Authority merely withholds licence renewals when there are dues. The report also affirms that it is not within Transport Malta’s remit to collect such fines. Quoting from page 107, ”Article 3 of S.L. 65.24, states that, “... in terms of article 564 of the Ordinance, the Authority shall be exempt from collecting such fines.”
TM also observed that according to the report, “The NAO office is satisfied that procedures and controls in relation to the accounting of revenue were in place and correctly followed by the TM and accordingly reflected in the Departmental Accounting System. Furthermore, all relevant documentation at the TM was held in an organised manner and was made available for the audit upon request.”
"The NAO asked Lesa and Transport Malta to improve the system for cases when there are pending contraventions and a vehicle is transferred to another owner, garaged or scrapped. The Authority will gladly follow these recommendations but to imply that they would somehow avoided this particular case is misleading," TM said.
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