Leader of the Opposition Ezzard Miller is objecting to the government’s six-month amnesty for owners of unlicensed vehicles, which begins Monday.
Miller said he particularly opposed the waiving of the backlog of fees, which he said adds up to millions of dollars in unpaid fees owed to the government.
“I am disappointed to see that the amnesty includes a waiver of the backlog of licensing fees, given that transgressors should be easily trackable in a timely way based on properly maintained file data,” Miller said in a statement Friday.
“By waiving the large backlog of licensing fees, the government is falling back on the politically motivated, non-punitive, forgiving position, because they have found themselves facing the embarrassment of not having insisted on the enforcement of the law as fees become due.
“This consistent neglect of duty is what leads to the breakdown of respect for the law,” he said.
Prospect MLA Austin Harris, citing statistics he said were gathered from various government departments and shared in Finance Committee, told lawmakers at a Legislative Assembly meeting earlier this month that there are currently 37,406 unlicensed vehicles in Cayman, compared to 42,459 registered vehicles.
With vehicle licensing fees for cars beginning at $180 a year, the government is potentially owed more than $6 million annually for outstanding fees, Miller said.
Some vehicles have been unlicensed since 2004’s Hurricane Ivan, when many vehicles were destroyed, but were never officially de-registered or removed from the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing’s database.
The DVDL announced last week that, beginning Monday, April 29, and continuing until Nov. 1, an amnesty will be in place to ‘hit reset’ for drivers with mounting unpaid back licensing fees. Customers will only have to pay fees to license their car going forward and all back fees will be written off.
Miller said in his statement that he could “accept a waiving of prosecution once outstanding fees are paid up in immediate response to the amnesty, even though in so doing we are turning a blind eye to the fact that operating an unlicensed vehicle on the road is a criminal offence under the Traffic Law”.
But, he said, extending the amnesty to the waiving of “all collectable unpaid licensing fees, is beyond unacceptable – it is unconscionable”.
He added that the waiving of fees is “particularly troubling” when government is prosecuting Caymanians through the courts for unpaid medical bills.
“How can we justify prosecuting people through the courts because they were sick and could not pay bills, while we waive unpaid vehicle licensing fees and deprive government of substantial revenue which is needed to maintain the roads?” he asked.
In his statement, Miller also questioned the administration accountability of the DVDL for the collection of the outstanding fees going back years, and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service for the enforcement of the law.
Last week, as the amnesty was announced, Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure Minister Joey Hew said the government had recognised that circumstances beyond some people’s control may have led to a backlog of fees, stating, “Some were unable to keep up with the fees, whereas others just forgot to terminate the vehicle prior to disposal.”
According to the government, the aim of the amnesty to is bring unlicensed vehicles back into compliance, to clear up the DVDL register, and to reduce the number of abandoned cars across Cayman.