.Picture: Flickr/GovernmentZARTIA temporarily lifts enforcement order block on licence renewals
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has received numerous complaints from motorists who have found there are enforcement orders issued against them for old traffic fines, preventing them from renewing their vehicle or driving licences. In many cases, it appears that motorists were never made aware of their outstanding infringement notices, which is required of the authorities.
OUTA discovered that the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) is converting infringement notices dating as far back as 2019 into enforcement order status, which in turn blocks the ability to renew vehicle and driver’s licences. In OUTA’s view, this is taking place well outside the prescribed time periods, as is stipulated in the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act. The enforcement orders are then loaded against the vehicle owners’ details in the national vehicle registry system (NaTIS), requiring the motorist or vehicle owner to pay these outstanding fines before their licences can be issued.
“Whether the RTIA’s failure to comply with its process is attributed to capacity constraints or dubious collection practices is uncertain,” says Advocate Stefanie Fick, OUTA’s Executive Director. “Nevertheless, this cannot continue at the expense of motorists, especially in light of the Concourt judgment giving government the green light to roll out AARTO nationwide.”
Fick explained that there is a certain process to be followed once a motorist is issued with a fine for a traffic offence. “Firstly, the infringer will be issued with an infringement notice to inform him or her of the offence. This infringement notice must contain all relevant information related to the infringement, including that the infringer must within 32 days of the notice act on it – either by paying or contesting the fine.”
Should an infringer fail to act within 32 days, the RTIA must issue and serve a courtesy letter on the infringer. The aim of a courtesy letter is to ensure that an infringer is informed of the infringement he or she has committed and the consequences thereof. Only once an infringer has failed to act within 32 days on a courtesy letter may the RTIA issue and serve an enforcement order.
“Where the RTIA has failed to issue and serve the courtesy letter timeously, the RTIA has deprived an infringer of the opportunity to comply with an infringement notice, resulting in a more serious consequence. If this is the case, it means that the RTIA has failed to follow its own process and cannot merely convert the old infringement notice to an enforcement order. In these circumstances the enforcement order might be considered to be unlawful and invalid,” says Fick.
“However, setting aside a flawed enforcement order requires time, money and resources – something an infringer should not be burdened with when the administrative flaw is a result of the RTIA’s own conduct.”
Fick said it is concerning that the RTIA and the AARTO system apparently cannot cope with the administrative processes as it currently stands. “How will they be able to cope with the AARTO Amendment Act that will roll the AARTO system out nationwide and where a demerit system will add even more problems to the mix?”
OUTA wrote to the RTIA and requested the RTIA’s urgent intervention to resolve these questionable collection practices. After having recently engaged with the RTIA on this matter, RTIA advised OUTA that it is investigating the allegations received and until such time as the investigation is concluded, the RTIA will lift the block on all enforcement orders issued.
OUTA urges motorists to check regularly whether they have enforcement orders on the AARTO website and follow the steps, especially before they arrange for the renewal of their licences (both motor vehicle licences and driving licence cards). If there is an enforcement order issued and they do not agree with it, OUTA suggests that an application for revocation be made to remedy the situation.
OUTA points out to motorist and vehicle owners, the following facts:
Licence renewals cannot be blocked by outstanding AARTO infringement notices (ie a fine that has not been converted into an enforcement order). Withholding licence renewals for this reason is not permitted by law and, in the event that happens, the motorist should report this to RTIA and/or OUTA, and stand their ground if a licencing authority insists they pay their outstanding traffic fines before their licence can be issued.
Furthermore, following our meeting with the RTIA on Monday 21 August, the RTIA has assured us that all “enforcement order” blocks on their system will be lifted, until such time as they have completed their internal investigation into this matter. This needs to be pointed out to the issuing authority who may try to prevent motorists from renewing their licences.
It is also important for motorists to know that they cannot be arrested for outstanding traffic infringements, unless there is a warrant of arrest which must be produced to the motorist by the official claiming to be in possession thereof.
More information on OUTA’s work challenging AARTO is here.
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