Drivers in line for fines windfall
Industry news / 08 Nov '12, 08:30am
A Pay-fine company is taking numerous government departments to court because it alleges that traffic fines are being issued illegally.
If the application is successful, it could mean that drivers who have paid fines issued in the same way would have to have their money paid back to them, leaving the council short of millions of rand.
The City of Johannesburg issues 200 000 to 400 000 fines a month by ordinary mail, most of them obtained like this. Credit: Boxer Ngwenya
Cornelia van Niekerk from the company Fines4U CC sent out legal notices this week to the Johannesburg metropolitan police department, the Road Traffic Infringement Agency, the municipal council of the city of Johannesburg, the MEC for community safety in Gauteng, the minister of police and the minister of transport.
The notices request that the respondents comply with the provisions of Administration Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act and that traffic fines be delivered either personally or by registered mail.
Aarto is a centralised system that attempts to place infringements in one place and encourage compliance from motorists.
Fines4U specialises in the legal reduction of traffic fines.
It takes the fines that companies receive and queries or pays them. Van Niekerk's attorney, Anton Burger, of Burger Attorneys, said the notices served by the sheriff of the court to the government departments indicated that an application would soon be filed against the state.
Burger said the Aarto act states that traffic fines must be issued in person or by registered mail, but the JMPD is issuing fines by normal postal services.
He said Van Niekerk's company acts as a proxy, handling the traffic fines of numerous corporates.
In the past, the company would make representations indicating that the fines had been issued illegally and the fines would be quashed.
But the JMPD has been refusing all representations in the past two years, said Burger.
He said Van Niekerk now had R20 million worth of outstanding fines that could not be finalised. The court action would attempt to have these fines withdrawn.
The JMPD was not empowered to consider representations, but was doing this and turning all representations down.
“The JMPD is also only allowed to accept payment of discounted fines.”
“Full fines are supposed to be paid to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency, but this isn't happening. The JMPD is accepting payment of all fines,” Burger said.
The attorney said that if the application was successful, the direct effect would be that Fines4U CC would have the R20 million in fines withdrawn, but the indirect effect would be that any motorist who paid a fine that was delivered through ordinary post would have to be paid back.
According to a reply by minister of transport Ben Martins in Parliament in August, only Tshwane delivered infringements through registered mail.
200 000 - 400 000 FINES A MONTH
Johannesburg used ordinary mail and a system provided by its subcontractors for the delivery of camera infringements.
“In order to limit postage costs, Johannesburg authorities issued the first notice by ordinary mail,” the minister said.
The City of Johannesburg's 2011 annual report showed that the council had received R331.2 million from the JMPD in fines. It projected that the council would receive R369.2 million in 2012/13.
This is not the first time the JMPD has been accused of not using Aarto correctly. In August, Road Traffic Infringement Agency spokesman Japh Chuwe slammed the council for issuing between 200 000 and 400 000 fines a month.
This, he said, was alarmingly high compared to the 35 000 fines issued in Tshwane. - The Star