ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 42

Billions lost to State in car rackets

Staff allegedly conniving with criminals in vehicle registration

A controversial decision taken in 2002, allegedly at the behest of second hand vehicle importers, to do away with the physical inspection of vehicles prior to registration, has helped criminal elements to register vehicles brought in knocked down condition and even old vehicles with doctored documents.

This has reportedly robbed the state of billions of rupees in revenue, in addition to harming the environment.

Sources familiar with this criminal operation said this was also fuelling the theft of new vehicles as the underworld is quite adept at not only repainting stolen vehicles, but even erasing their original chassis and engine numbers and stamping new numbers in their place for re-registration with counterfeit papers. Where papers cannot be procured such vehicles, it is alleged they could still be registered with the Motor Traffic Department a bribe of a mere Rs.15,000 per vehicle.

They said corruption in the Department was such that it seeps from the upper levels to the bottom. One woman SLAS officer allegedly notorious for approving shady registrations, has been reportedly elevated to a very senior position in a Ministry.

“Even when there are obvious wrongdoings by senior officials, they are probed by other SLAS officers and charges swept under the carpet,” the sources said.

A former Transport Minister had complained at a Department meeting that he was personally aware that at least a dozen budded vehicles, mostly luxury jeep types, were surreptitiously registered by the Department each month on forged documents. But before he could do anything, a Cabinet reshuffle had taken away the Ministry from him.

Old hands at the Department who see a phenomenal increase in corruption there said much of this problem could be corrected if the Government simply ensured that the Department enforced the relevant sections of the Motor Traffic Act as was done prior to 2002.

According to Section 3(1) of the Act “No motor vehicle shall be registered unless that vehicle complies with all the provisions of the regulation made under this Act as to the construction, weight, dimension and equipment of motor vehicles, whether applicable to vehicles of the class or to the description to which that vehicle belongs.”

Contacted in this regard Motor Traffic Commissioner B. Wijeyaratne said he had already submitted a detailed report regarding the problem and what needs to be done about it, to the new Transport Minister Dallas Alahapperuma.

The Commissioner said he had also contacted the Vice Chairman of the Ports Authority to introduce a system of inspection. It was earlier held up as the SLPA wanted to charge the Department a rent for using Port facilities, but now that matter has been resolved.

From May 28, 2006, the Commissioner had ordered Customs authorities to furnish more details of imported vehicles. From 2002 up to that date, the Customs authorities had been furnishing only the chassis numbers of imported vehicles, but now they are required to supply such details as the fuel type, general condition, cylinder capacity, gross weight etc.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.