EDITORIAL – The DVDL: A department that failed ‘its inspection’

As a newspaper, we prefer to tell you what you do not already know, but no one in this fair land of ours does not already know that there are issues, major issues, with the performance of the Cayman Islands Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing.

Everyone knows this because every one of us, at least every driver or vehicle owner, is compelled to deal with the DVDL. People who work for a living must somehow carve out of their schedules anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to get their vehicles inspected, renew their drivers’ licenses, change addresses, transfer ownership titles or whatever.

We are familiar with clever “customers” who have actually developed strategies to interact with this nightmare department.

Some actually visit the DVDL headquarters on Crewe Road, poke their heads inside for a peek at how long the lines are and, more often than not, leave to return at a less busy time on a better day.

Those perhaps in a higher-income bracket simply buy their way out of the ordeal: They pay someone to suffer for them through the process and the paperwork.

And then there is the third category. These drivers and vehicle owners simply ignore the DVDL altogether. They do not get their vehicles inspected or registered, and they don’t renew their drivers’ licenses. There are literally thousands in this “to hell with ’em” category.

On today’s front page, we relate a tale of departmental dysfunction that is remarkable by any acceptable standard. The Compass was able to secure a heretofore “secret” 2016 report compiled by the government’s Internal Audit Service.

Auditors reviewed more than 74,000 vehicle registrations and found more than half were for vehicles with expired tags or with no licensing details at all. In fact, more than 25,000 vehicles had “expired” registrations. Some records had not been updated since the 1980s.

It is impossible to know which, and how many, of these vehicles are traveling Cayman’s roadways, what condition they are in and whether they constitute public safety risks.

Not insignificantly, the auditor estimated than the DVDL had neglected to collect $14.9 million in registration and licensing fees.

Moreover, the auditor castigated DVDL management for their “lack of accountability” in handling daily cash transactions. In simple terms, they were doing the equivalent of leaving the vault door wide open.

It’s worth a pause here to ask the question publicly why the auditors’ report was not made public. Who was hiding this from whom? And why?

At the Compass, frankly, we should not have to be filing a never-ending flood of freedom of information requests for information that the government should routinely be making public on its own. The FOI process is lengthy, cumbersome and costly, and it’s no substitute for government making these documents routinely, if not automatically, available. Do we think they are hiding something from you (our readers, their voters)?

Yes, we do.

The director of the DVDL, David Dixon, said his department just cannot handle its workload with current resources. We believe him, but that does not absolve him of his responsibilities as head of this critical department.

If Mr. Dixon needs more resources – people, money or whatever – let him make his case to the sharp-penciled “budgeteers” in central government. What he cannot do is simply ignore the mess in the department he oversees.

In the meantime, take a number, and get to the end of the line. This may take a while. Cayman’s residents deserve an efficient civil service that makes it easy (dare we say even pleasant?) to do business and comply with the law. Perhaps what is needed is further examination and intervention from top officials such as Governor Helen Kilpatrick or Deputy Governor Franz Manderson.

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