LEGAL and legislative watchdog, Veritas, this week advised that road traffic offenders cannot be fined anything above US$20 because government did not follow proper legal procedures when it raised the fines.
The watchdog pointed out that any changes to the fine schedules would first require Parliament to amend the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (CPEA), something that embattled Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, did not do, thereby making the purported increases null and void.
Veritas said as far as the law is concerned, the proposed increases would remain mere proposals, a flurry of Statutory Instruments recently gazetted notwithstanding, until Parliament passes a law amending the relevant section of the CPEA.
“The proposed increase, from US$20 to US$100, in spot fines for minor traffic offences has not been implemented,” Veritas said. “Press reports claiming that Parliament approved the increase and that it came into force on New Year’s Day are wrong. The law remains as it was before.”
It appears that, after noticing the spirited resistance the proposed fine increases faced from legislators from both side of the political divide, Chinamasa decided to by-pass the legal hurdles by “smuggling” them via a Statutory Instrument (SI).
After presenting the proposed fine increases before Parliament, Chinamasa was taken to task by members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance as well as ordinary members of the house. He conceded that the proposed fines were excessive and needed reconsideration as to both the amount and the legal mechanism for making changes. After leaving the august House with this promise, the next thing Chinamasa — a lawyer by profession and both a former attorney general and justice minister — did was to cause the publication of SI 129 of 2015 in the Government Gazette announcing the new fines as the new law.
Veritas said this is not the legal way of doing things.
“An amendment to section 356 of the CPEA would require an Act of Parliament. Any change to the monetary value of Level 3 in the Standard Scale of Fines (First Schedule, Criminal Law Code) could be made by Statutory Instrument, but only after a draft Statutory Instrument had been approved by Parliament (Criminal Law Code, Section 230(7)).”
While government claims stiff traffic fines are meant to reduce accidents on the country’s roads, the move is largely viewed as a desperate attempt by a cash-strapped administration to generate more revenue.
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