The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) took issue with Moneyweb’s article this week titled: Millions of Joburg, Pretoria traffic fines ‘unenforceable’.
The agency, tasked with the administration of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act, issued a statement accusing Moneyweb of misleading the public.
After several interactions with the agency and an almost hour-long telephone conversation with RTIA spokesperson Zukisa Nduneni we stand by our article.
Nduneni ended the conversation and invited Moneyweb to put outstanding issues to her by email. She later refused to answer these questions.
It seems that RTIA is changing its story with time and it appears as though it is trying to hide the extent to which Aarto is currently failing.
But let’s start at the beginning…
To understand what the fuss is about, one has to have some understanding of the Aarto process. The Act, which is currently only in force in Johannesburg and Tshwane, provides for a restrictive administrative process to manage traffic fines for minor contraventions.
It provides for several steps with different options for alleged infringers to choose from at every step. The steps are linked to very strict timelines.
Issuing authorities such as the Johannesburg (JMPD) and Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) issue and serve infringement notices (fines) on alleged offenders. If these motorists don’t respond within 32 days, RTIA takes over the process and has to enforce the fine.
This is done by serving a courtesy letter on the alleged infringer, if he/she does not respond within 32 days an enforcement order is served on them, and if the motorist further ignores that, the enforcement order is activated and their eNatis (electronic national administration traffic information system) account is blocked. That means the motorist cannot transfer ownership to or from themselves and cannot renew their vehicle licence.
The following graphic may help to clarify this process:
On March 17 RTIA tweeted a link to a notice stating it had suspended notices “to review the system”. The suspended notices would include courtesy letters and enforcement orders.
— RTIA-AARTO (@rtia_aarto) March 17, 2016
The next day Moneyweb emailed Mthunzi Mbungwana from RTIA’s communications team, asking among other things for the reason for the suspension, how long the suspension would be and what the effect on motorists would be if RTIA is not able to stick to prescribed timeframes as a result of the suspension.
RTIA first insisted the suspension was “to review the system” and failed to respond to questions about the status of its Post Office account. After being confronted with the Post Office’s confirmation that it had suspended RTIA’s Post Office account in October last year due to non-payment, the RTIA blamed “uncertainties in the (Post Office) processes”. Therefore, RTIA said, it could not proceed with issuing the notices.
It was only after Moneyweb published its report on April 4 based on extensive research – including on RTIA’s 2014/15 Annual Report – which had expressed concern that millions of fines might be unenforceable, that RTIA indicated it was considering serving courtesy letters and enforcement orders in person as an alternative to registered mail.
In order to enforce the Act, Moneyweb argues the RTIA has to serve courtesy letters and enforcement orders within the prescribed timelines. It is currently unable to do so and therefore the fines could be unenforceable.
However Nduneni argued that as the service through the Post Office was not available, the agency would serve it in person.
She admitted that the volume – around 500 000 infringement notices are issued monthly and very few are paid within the first 32 days – means that RTIA would not be able to serve all of it in person. She said the agency would focus “on bulk and fleet owners”.
Nduneni could not indicate how many courtesy letters and enforcement orders have been issued in person since October. While admitting that RTIA is also bound to the timelines prescribed in the Act, she did not clearly spell out what the effect would be in cases where these notices were not served timeously.
Moneyweb has learnt that personal service of notices, in terms of the Criminal Procedures Act, costs at least three times as much as service through registered mail. We believe that the cost and volume of notices would be prohibitive for personal service in any meaningful way and therefore we maintain that millions of infringement notices in Johannesburg and Tshwane have become unenforceable.