Passing bribes at Licensing offices has been a public secret for decades.
For $3,000 a person can obtain a freshly minted driver's licence at any licensing office in Trinidad without doing the regulations or driving test, according to information reaching the Express.
Commenting on this allegation yesterday, Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan acknowledged there is corruption at the Licensing office but said this will no longer be tolerated.
An Express online publication of a report titled “$3,000 to buy a driver's permit” yesterday generated more that 600 comments,and over 1,900 shares from the public, many saying this was nothing new.
In fact, one person stated that this has been occurring for the past 40 years.
Some also admitted that they paid bribes or was aware of persons paying and receiving bribes.
“This is old news. In order to be allowed to pass my driving test I had to pay 500 for mine in 1988,” stated one reader.
“The Express shoulda come an interview me almost 30 years ago ... by the way having to pay is not a reflection of your driving ability. I only paid $300 for mine in 1982,” stated another.
One reader stated that he acquired his permit 40 years ago after paying.
“Old news to me cause since I am in primary school this going on,” stated another.
Another person stated that he paid $2,500 for his permit in Port of Spain while another shared that he heard that people were paying as high as $4,000.
One comment was that some driving schools were involved in the corruption ring and added that this was from personal experience.
A reader stated that her sister was given the choice of paying for her licence even after successfully completing her driving test and if she did not pay, she would have to do the process again.
“The corruption is so blatant. It's sickening... The 'touts' are the middlemen who handle that cash transactions, and they bombard these officers with all the illegal transactions that these corrupt officers have no time to deal with the legitimate public and their needs that they are legally paying for....thus only 10 vehicles can be transferred/inspected per day...and that's why you folks have to spend an entire day at licence office,” stated a reader.
“This going on long time..so much racket in this country..then again doesn't the anthem begin with “forged”..lol” stated another.
Transport Commissioner: Bring the information
The issue of corruption at the Licensing office was raised yesterday by the Express at the launch of the Registration Validation System at the Works and Transport Ministry in Port of Spain.
Transport Commissioner Wayne Richards was asked what is being done to deal with corruption in the Licensing offices and driver's licences being illegally obtained for lucrative amounts.
“Ma'am I'm waiting on you to bring the information so we could start to deal with it,” responded Richards.
“We cannot cast aspersion without being able to identify these things, now we have been hearing these things, at most of the locations we are moving things forward at a pace, for instance people come through Caroni and walk through there in a half hour and things like that. So if people are still doing that, we want to take out all of that,” he said.
“As a matter of fact, I have put assistant Transport Commissioners in charge of particular offices and they report. They must identify under their stewardship what is happening and they report...so we are narrowing into anything,” he added.
He, however, said there is a lot of information that cannot be substantiated.
“I want that information and I will deal with that information for you, thank you,” he said.
Accepting bribes is illegal
Sinanan did not appear pleased with this response.
In the presence of Richards, the Minister acknowledged that there is corruption at licensing officers and a working team has been mandated to deal with this.
“I wouldn't take the line that the Transport Commissioner take, in Trinidad and Tobago nobody could deny the fact that there is a lot of corruption at Licensing Office and as the Minister of Works and Transport I am not just going to wait for people to come with the information, we are going to go in there and find them.
“We are putting together a working team to transform the Licensing Office and that will be part of their mandate because in Trinidad and Tobago a lot of people would not come forward although the benefit from it, it is wrong cause wherever there is a demand there will be a supply, what we have to cut is the demand for this,” he said.
“We have to go in there, I want to remind people this, there is a charge to accept a bribe and to give a bribe but we are not just going to wait for people to come forward, Transport Commissioner, the Ministry of Works and Transport is going to go into Licensing Office and try to fix that problem, it is not going to be easy, there is a lot of push back from trying to fix the system because there are a lot of people who want the system to remain as it is because they benefit from it, we are not going to tolerate that, there is corruption at the Licensing office and we intend to deal with it,” said Sinanan.