Activist: Why is police fingerprint ID system out of action?

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Ravi Balgobin-Maharaj –

SOCIAL and political activist Ravi Balgobin-Maharaj wants to know if the breakdown of the police automated fingerprint identification system has anything to do with the non-payment of licence fees.

For over a month, the system has been out of action, causing delays to hundreds of people seeking a certificate of character. It also went down several times last year.

Balgobin-Maharaj wants Police Commissioner Erla Christopher to say why there is a delay in providing the certificates and what steps the police have taken to repair the fingerprint system.

In a freedom-of-information request, Balgobin-Maharaj also wants to know the total amount of money the police owed creditors up to February 28; if any outstanding licence fees are owed to suppliers of equipment, and the amount owed; if the service has paid licence fees for the system and the amount paid; and how much was spent on the system for 2022.

In a letter to the commissioner last week, attorney Vishaal Siewsaran said his client was concerned after reading an article quoting former police commissioner Gary Griffith speaking at a joint select committee hearing of a $182 million debt the police owed to suppliers of IT and equipment, among other things.

Siewsaran said his client wanted to know if the system malfunction was caused by the non-payment of fees to the supplier.

On February 14, the police announced that applications for certificates of character could not be facilitated because of a system malfunction.

On March 16, deputy commissioner Curt Simon said they expected the service to resume, but temporarily.

Siewsaran said the breakdown has been “significantly detrimental to members of the public.”

He said with a budgetary allocation of $2,535,164,000, the police service has failed to either repair the system or provide reasons for the delay.

“It is therefore strange that the system could be down for such a long period…

“This is detrimental to citizens because such certificates are fundamental in relation to persons taking up job offers and/or applying for a visa through the USor Canadian Embassy. “In addition, due to the frequency of the automated fingerprint identification system being down, applicants for the said certificates are now backlogged.”

He also says the inability of the public to get certificates of character was in direct conflict with the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

In addition, “The fact that this could have happened in the first place reflects poorly on the overall management and operation of the TTPS.”

He said the public had the right to know how the police service was being managed and run and its true financial state.

“Many businessmen have complained to the applicant that they are being owed monies by the TTPS and they are not being paid.

“This is having an adverse impact on these businesses at a time when they are reeling from the impact of…the covid19 pandemic.”

Siewsaran also said the financial state of the police service could compromise its integrity and independence, while eroding public confidence in it.

“The public is entitled to know whether its monies are being properly spent by the TTPS.”