NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The backlog for driver’s licenses at the Road Traffic Department has left thousands without cards just weeks after it became a criminal offense to drive without one.
A high-ranking official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed some 7,000 licenses have to be printed and distributed after the department ran low on cards earlier this month.
Those cards reportedly arrived in the country on Monday, and the official suggested the department will consider allowing backlogged motorists to pick up their cards on weekends only to avoid disruption of day-to-day operations .
Minister of Transport and Local Government Renward Wells told Eyewitness News yesterday the matter has been sorted out and cards are now available for people to receive.
The government recently amended the Road Traffic Act to make it a criminal offense for a driver to fail to produce a driver’s license on request of a uniformed officer.
The failure to do so could lead to an arrest.
Police traffic division Superintendent Marino Hinds said yesterday police are using their discretion to deal with the matter.
“It’s not hard and fast,” Hinds said.
“We are verifying whose licenses are up, and those persons who cannot get a physical license in their hands, of no fault of their own, because of the road traffic department, we are using our discretion as best as we could.
“However, that does not exempt that vast majority of Bahamans whose licenses do not fall within that time where the Road Traffic Department did not have those physical licenses. So it’s a case by case basis where we are enforcing that law.”
Hinds advised the motoring public who do not have a physical licenses at this time to ensure that they keep the receipt given to them by the department.
“If you have paid for a license, then the Road Traffic Department is giving those persons receipts, which informs us that this person isn’t breaking the law, it is just that they don’t know have the physical license because the road traffic does not have any,” he said.
“So we are checking those receipts to verify those claims.
“Additionally, we are finding that persons are traveling and persons in the US are honoring those receipts as proof of having driver’s licenses.”
The issue was raised in Parliament by former Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin on Tuesday.
In response, Wells told Parliament the government has had “an awful lot of issues” with the vendor chosen by the former administration.
“In regards to drive’s license, the programming software, obtaining them,” Wells said.
“The reality is is that we have had issues with the programming, with the software initially that put us out for two months during the summer because whenever we printed the driver’s license, whenever they signed it it was over the person’s picture.”
However, Hanna-Martin maintained yesterday the issue is a result of poor oversight.
She claimed the reason the department ran out of cards is simply because they failed to order more in time from their supplier.
Hanna-Martin explained the cards are purchased from a New Zealand company, and then sent to the American Banknote Corporation in order to be outfitted with heightened security features.
“The department ordered cards late and because the card is designed specifically for The Bahamas, the features and the layers of security extends the manufacturing time,” Hanna-Martin said.
“The company must have a card in time to ensure that it is delivered with the correct design and features.”
She added: “Just take the blow and say that it’s an error, you didn’t order in time, and make sure it don’t happen again. But now they are trying to make it some scandalous political point.”