Liberia: Inspection of Vehicle Particulars More Frequent Under Weah’s Government

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The joint inspectorate team conducting regular daily inspections

MONROVIA – The lack of strategies to attract foreign direct investments to improve the country and help better the living conditions of citizens has compelled the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led government of President George Manneh Weah to intensify its efforts on the inspection and registration of vehicles, tricycles and motorcycles plying streets in the country.

The joint operation is being implemented by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Ministry of Transport and the Liberia National Police (LNP), respectively.

Vehicles, motorcycles, and tricycles are impounded until registration and insurance fees are paid by owners or drivers of these moving objects.

The aim of the operation, which has quadrupled under the Weah-led government, is to collect legitimate revenue to support the country’s National Budget.

The current budget of Liberia for Fiscal Year 2019/2020 is about US$526 million.

The government continues to struggle to generate funds to support its National Budget by imploring additional means and strategies.

One of the strategies is the increment in the number of operations for vehicles, tricycles and motorcycles’ inspection and registration.

At major intersections members of the inspectorate team are seen vigorously carrying on their assigned tasks and responsibilities to ensure full compliance.

They mount checkpoints as early as 7:00 AM under the sun or rain and disembark during the early evening hours in a bid to generate more revenues for the government.

But the persistent inspection and registration exercises is not going down well with a score of drivers, vehicle owners and passengers as a result of the current economic situation that continues to affect all sectors of the country.

One of such persons is Mustapha Kromah, a truck driver.

Strangulating legal hustle

“I came to the checkpoint and the inspection people just asking for all kinds of documents. This car has been parking for lots of years, and we just fixed it three weeks ago to put it on the road to hustle small, small. We’re trying to live a better life but things are not easy. The car still giving us the problem, and the inspection people, too, giving us a problem. Everyday inspection, everyday inspection, can worry me more than the car owner.”

– Mustapha Kromah, truck driver

Speaking in an interview with FrontPage Africa over the weekend, Kromah pointed out that his vehicle was recently repaired and placed on the road to generate funds, but the current situation continues to hamper his plans.

He believed that the consistent inspecting of vehicles continues to strangulate the ‘legal hustle’ of drivers and car owners.

He maintained that though commercial drivers are maximizing their efforts to provide basic necessities for them and their respective family members in the wake of numerous constraints, the move made by the government to prioritize vehicle inspection and registration on a regular basis continues to impose more hardship on them. 

 “I came to the checkpoint and the inspection people just asking for all kinds of documents. This car has been parking for lots of years, and we just fixed it three weeks ago to put it on the road to hustle small, small. We’re trying to live a better life but things are not easy. The car still giving us the problem, and the inspection people, too, giving us a problem. Everyday inspection, everyday inspection, can worry me more than the car owner,” Kromah stated. 

He wants the government to relax its inspection and registration of vehicles, tricycles and motorcycles due to the prevailing situations in the country.

“Things are very hard now. We are not getting money like the way we use to get it. The expensive too much than before. The government is carrying on inspection about five times now. We want for government to come back to the same two times inspection per year, because the country is already hard, and they want to create more hardship for us,” he noted.

Low revenue generation

Kromah claimed that the situation normally contributes to low-income generation on the traffic.

He noted that though his boss has reposed confidence in him, minimum income generated and reported has discouraged him over the past weeks.

For his part, a 32-year old tricycle rider, Willliam S. Dalieh, termed as ‘frustrating and embarrassing’ the increase in the number of vehicle inspections.

He maintained that the situation is intended to slow down the progress of citizens that are engaged in commercial transportation.

 “The constant inspection is embarrassing for us the drivers. It wastes our time in traffic. Since the beginning of this year, it’s about five times now they are doing an inspection. Before, it used to be two times a year from February to March and from October to December. But now, it is a continuous process now,” he stated.

Passengers’ reactions

Dalieh pointed out that most often passengers aboard tricycles are disenchanted during inspection exercises.

He urged the government to focus on the reduction in the prices of petroleum products and other basic commodities, instead of persistently carrying on inspections.

“Sometimes the passengers get vexed and frustrated. Some of them are rushing going to work at hospitals and other places. Some passengers normally begged; even some of them can ask us to carry them free. It’s not easy and what I want to say to the government is to go back to the same two times inspection a year,” he added.

“Maybe this is the change we voted for. The true meaning of pro-poor is for us to suffer more. We are in season time-car business already hard and inspection can’t finish. We are not even seeing nothing sound they are doing with the money they are collecting. Is this what they call-this government gets the people at heart,” an elderly woman who disembarked from a commercial vehicle during an inspection stated.

Time consuming

A 49-year-old man identified as Martin Anderson pointed out that the situation consumed most of the ‘precious time’ of both drivers and passengers.

According to him, both drivers who have already registered and insured their vehicles and passengers are compelled to remain in ‘long traffic’ until vehicles before they are inspected.

“Even if you have all of your documents, you will still have to wait in the traffic for the team to inspect all the other. If you reached at the checkpoint again, they will see your insurance sticker, but will still be asking you some unnecessary questions,” he noted.

“We cannot continue to make our citizens to go through suffering. You go so inspection, you come so inspection. This inspection thing is really, really embarrassing to some of us. In fact, where is the money going? We don’t know-because even people that are working in government complaining that they can’t take pay,” Mr. Anderson maintained.

Reaction

Speaking in a brief chat with FrontPageAfrica on condition of anonymity, a member of the Inspectorate Team, confirmed that inspections are ‘carryon many times in different categories.’

He said the exercise is being misconstrued by some members of the public.

“At times, people do not understand the inspection process. We carry on inspection bit by bit-for taxis, private cars, kehkehs and motorbikes. Whenever they see an inspection going on, they feel that we are inspecting everyone. No, that is not the case always,” he stated.

Compromise 

Most often commercial and private vehicles drivers and owners are seen a distance away from the inspection sites, persuading members of the inspectorate team to rescind their decision to impound their vehicles.

Some of them are forced to dip into their purse or pockets to give ‘handouts’ to allow easy passage on a momentary basis.

“Sometimes we have to compromise some cases. For example, you cannot tell me that I should park an ambulance or the vehicle of a doctor on his way to work to save lives just because the car is not registered. We are all human my brother-but for people to say we received handouts or bribe to make people pass; that is far from the truth,” an inspector from the Ministry of Transport stated.

Exempting the ‘big shots’

“We can speak to some people who are Representatives, Senators and other government officials who can talk to us on the phone to let their relatives or others pass. We can allow it because we don’t want to get into trouble too. Even some big people in the police can do the same,” the inspector added.

The equitable application of the law in Liberia remains a major problem in the post-conflict nation.

At times, law efforts officers applied the laws based upon fear and favor, or to avoid reprisal from higher-ups working in government.

This situation has immensely contributed to the increase in lawlessness in Liberia.

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