RTIA must answer for problems around outstanding traffic fines and enforcement orders

Unpaid traffic fines preventing motorists from renewing licences could be the result of RTIA not following the AARTO law - again.

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23/10/2020 07:20:38

                                                                                                                                                                                                                RTIA must answer for problems around outstanding traffic fines and enforcement orders 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has received numerous complaints from motorists who received SMSs informing them that they have outstanding enforcement orders that will prevent them from renewing their vehicle or driving licences. In many cases motorists are unaware of any outstanding infringement notices for unpaid fines. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Upon further investigation, OUTA discovered that the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) issued enforcement orders and bypassed a crucial step in the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act. “Whether the RTIA’s failure to comply with its process is attributed to capacity constraints or malicious collection practices remains a mystery,” says Adv Stefanie Fick, OUTA’s head of legal. “Nevertheless, this cannot continue at the expense of motorists.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Fick explained that there is a certain process to be followed once a motorist gets issued with a fine for a traffic offence. “Firstly, the infringer will be issued with an infringement notice to inform him or her of the offence. This infringement notice must contain all relevant information related to the infringement, including that the infringer must within 32 days of the notice act on it – either by paying or contesting the fine.” 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Should an infringer fail to act upon either of the options as listed above within 32 days, the RTIA must issue and serve a courtesy letter on the infringer. “A courtesy letter is exactly that,”  Fick explained. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The aim of a courtesy letter is to ensure that an infringer is informed of the infringement he or she has committed and the consequences thereof. “Where a courtesy letter is absent, the RTIA has deprived an infringer from the opportunity to comply with an infringement notice, resulting in a more serious consequence – an enforcement order. If this is the case, it means that the RTIA has failed to follow its own process.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The absence of a courtesy letter also implies that the enforcement order may be unenforceable and can potentially be set aside by a court of law.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                “However, setting aside a flawed enforcement order requires time, money and resources – something an infringer should not be burdened with when the administrative flaw is a result of the RTIA’s own conduct. Considering the current state of our judicial system under various Covid-19 regulations, electing to have the matter dealt with in court is not something that everybody may have an appetite for.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Fick said it is concerning that the RTIA apparently cannot cope with the administrative processes as it currently stands. “How will they be able to cope with the AARTO Amendment Act that will be rolled out nationwide by July 2021 and where a demerit system will add even more problems to the mix?” 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                OUTA urged motorists to please check regularly whether they have enforcement orders on the AARTO website (www.aarto.gov.za) and especially before they arrange for the renewal of their licences (both motor vehicle and drivers’ licences). 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                “If motorists are confronted with enforcement orders at licence renewal centres, they don’t have time to apply for the revocation of the enforcement orders – a step they have a legal right to – and are forced to pay the outstanding amount. Therefore, it is a good idea to check this beforehand.” 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Should you wish to apply for a revocation of an enforcement order if the lawful process was not followed, you can contact organisations like Fines4U to assist. Fines4U in 2017 took the RTIA to court for not following the correct procedure when collecting outstanding traffic fines. The court found that RTIA indeed contravened AARTO, and forced RTIA to reverse thousands of fines issued in Gauteng. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                OUTA compiled a list of FAQs on the topic of unpaid traffic fines, infringement notices, enforcement orders and the process according to the AARTO Act, currently governing this process, available here

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Voice note by Adv. Stefanie Fick.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Picture: OUTA

                                                                                                                                                                                                                OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.