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Probe leads to test station closures

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IOL mot pic dec14 Test Well Station

Motshwari Mofokeng

Test Well testing station was busted for issuing more than 25 000 roadworthy certificates in the past year without testing the vehicles. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

An 18-month-long fraud and corruption investigation has led to the closure of four private licensing stations around Johannesburg - and there are more closures to come.

The Auto Test Centre in Germiston, Test Well Testing Station in Alberton, Hamberg Testing Station in Meyersdal and Lenasia Vehicle Testing Station were but a few which have been earmarked for closure out of a total of 10 identified as the worst-offending testing stations in Gauteng.

Brett Munro, a member of the ministerial task team, said on Thursday: "A national ministerial task team was set up by transport minister Ben Martins to investigate corrupt activities within private vehicle testing stations.

"Surveillance cameras were placed in the premises of the stations as per the eNatis system. In nine months we identified that 34 000 KwaZulu-Natal-registered vehicles were issued with roadworthiness certificates in Gauteng - many of which were not roadworthy to begin with."

UNDERCOVER STING

Approval was sought from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to mount the cameras, but the final nail in the coffins of the stations was when undercover officers from the elite investigations unit, the Hawks, bought roadworthiness certificates from the stations.

The going rate for the certificates was from R800 to R3000, depending on the type of vehicle and the client.

The national department of transport, KwaZulu-Natal department of transport, Gauteng SAPS Commercial Crime Unit and the Gauteng department of community safety works together on investigations in the province and, once those were completed, 34 suspects were identified.

Of these, 13 have been arrested and charged with fraud and corruption.

The operation, which started in KwaZulu-Natal, has seen 16 private vehicle licensing testing station closed in the province since 2010, with 65 people arrested. Of that number, 43 were convicted for fraud and corruption.

On Thursday the managers of the stations were served with papers notifying them to close shop for 30 days. They have two weeks in which to file an appeal over the closure. If community safety MEC Faith Mazibuko finds that the station owners are guilty of fraud and corruption, the stations will be closed permanently.

Munro said of Test Well Testing Station: "If they processed the number of vehicles they said they did, they would have had to check a vehicle every six minutes, nine hours a day, every day for three months."

And for a station that recorded 4909 vehicles as roadworthy, there was no activity there on Thursday.

Following the closures, Mazibuko said: "For as long as there are drivers who don't want to follow the correct procedures for vehicle fitness certificates and driving licences, Gauteng roads will suffer high rates of crashes and fatalities." - The Star

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