Lawmakers, other officials ply streets with unregistered & uninsured vehicles
The Government of Liberia never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes one is tempted to equate this place (Country) to an animal farm – a George Orwell’s play you know.
No, honestly speaking, it appears that the implementation of certain laws or policies only affects the common people, excluding government officials – and for the purpose of our discussion, members of the Legislature and Executive Branches of Government, including their connections-family members and associates. That’s the fact, trust me.
Barely three weeks ago, the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Transport and the Liberian National Police began the ongoing vehicle registration and insurance inspection in a joint exercise.
But the interesting thing is that the inspection seems to be directed only at the general public, while some members of the 53rd Liberian Legislature and officials within the Executive Branch of Government ply the streets with unregistered and uninsured vehicles, yet they don’t get impounded by the police as other vehicles are faced with.
One may ask, but how do you know that members of the Legislature ply the streets with unregistered and uninsured vehicles?
Now, each member of the 53rd Legislature has been assigned two sets of registration plates: one with SEN. or REP, while the other is HOR. These registration plates are only to be used on their official vehicles. But most of them used them rotationally on other vehicles either their own or family members and associates.
This is how it works; some of the Lawmakers have up to four vehicles. Instead of registering and insuring the rest of their vehicles, they assigned each of their official plates at the front of each of those vehicles, meaning each of those four vehicles have only one registration plate at the front and none at the back.
Is this act not criminal? Yes, it is. Do the police impound such vehicles to ensure that the Lawmakers are also abiding by the laws? No.
So, for them the vehicle registration and inspection exercise does not apply, but they make 15000 times the salary of the average civil servant. And because they have refused to pay taxes and insure their vehicles, they use their offices to flout the laws.
Some members of the Executive Branch are also guilty of this act, but thanks to the new General Services Agency or GSA Director Mary Broh that the act is being minimized. However, there are several vehicles being used by officials from the Executive Branch of Government that are not insured. Have they been impounded? No.
An officer voicing his frustration Friday was happy that Madam Broh was getting those uninsured vehicles off the streets.
On Friday, I sat with two Police officers (names withheld) who man one of the inspection check points outside of Monrovia. As we discussed the ongoing vehicle inspection, they began to pour out their frustration. One displaying seven drivers’ licenses said, he was ready to be disrobed.
When I asked him why? He said the licenses belong to drivers of vehicles he had impounded on Friday and those were vehicles that had neither been registered nor insured, but some of his bosses wanted them released to the owners. An order he disobeyed, but fearing consequences from the aggrieved bosses.
So, you see, even the police bosses have interest in select vehicles’ owners, thereby aiding them to also flout the laws, like the lawmakers and other officials. Now the vehicle insurance enforcement: where the government displayed its insensitivity again.
The Government of Liberia late last year announced that it would have begun the enforcement of the third party insurance policy. The policy which is by law is in the right direction for vehicles owners. Not much was heard about this exercise in terms of educating the general public most of whom were hearing about the third party insurance policy for the first time.
For instance, what are the benefits there in to secure a third party insurance policy? When an insured vehicle is involved in an accident, what do the owners expect? Why if it is involved with an individual or when is insurance company liable to pay for an insured vehicle which is involved in an accident?
But instead, it quickly evaluated 20 Insurance Companies-some with no prior history here and dished out a fixed price for the different categories of vehicles. The government has targeted 1 million vehicles to be registered and insured- what this means is that it is targeting a particular amount of revenue to be generated through this scheme.
What is not surprising to me is that the Government is desperate to raise revenues which have recorded a persistent shortfall since the second term of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Officials have continued to blame the citizens for the shortfall, saying that the citizens don’t like to pay taxes. But what they forget is that they who make chunk of the money usually evade taxes. Example is the lawmakers and officials who would rather choose to rotate registration plates than to register their private vehicles. Some also abused the duty free privileges thereby diverting needed revenues into personal pockets.
So its target is the registration and insurance of about 1 million vehicles. Whether its citizens are well educated about the third party insurance policy or not, it is a law that must be enforced, by all means. And so it opens up the market to the twenty insurance companies. One million vehicles are the targets.
This sounds desperate, isn’t it? But you know what happens when people are desperate for something; they ignore several other factors, for example the consequence of such desperate measures. Liberia lacks a viable public transportation system. Commuters rely heavily on privately-own commercial vehicles.
What one would have thought was that the annual insurance fees would have been spread over a quarterly period since it is just being enforced and makes it mandatory that before a vehicle is registered for the following year, the owner should provide the previous year insurance certificate. This would have eased the burden on both the commuters and private commercial and other vehicles owners.
But that has never been considered. I am not saying that people should ply the streets with unregistered vehicles like some lawmakers and officials do, but what I am saying is that, it enforces the vehicle registration and spread the third party insurance payment over a quarter, where vehicle owners will pay a certain amount until payment is completed and certificate issued-meaning by next year, 2015, no vehicle will be registered if the owner did not present the previous year insurance certificate.
In short, the inspection should go across the board – all members of the Executive and the Legislature must comply with the process rather than the police targeting ordinary citizens and commercial vehicle owners.