Johannesburg - An 18-year relationship between Tracker and the SAPS is being investigated by the Hawks after a criminal case was opened against the company.
Forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan opened a case at the Linden police station in February against the private vehicle tracking and recovery company as well as high-ranking police officers.
In the statement, O’Sullivan alleges Tracker had benefited to the tune of R2.5 billion a year through the use of police resources to track its clients’ vehicles.
O’Sullivan said in the document he was opening a complaint after his firm received a request for investigation from an undisclosed source into the relationship between Tracker and the SAPS.
This source made the following allegations, which O’Sullivan refers to in his complaint:
- SAPS resources were being utilised by Tracker in order to track and recover their clients’ stolen vehicles.
- These resources, which were made available at no charge, include police officials, police vehicles and aircraft.
- The SAPS were allowing Tracker to utilise state resources to fund their organisation, which resulted in significantly higher profit margins for Tracker than if they would have to pay for such resources.
- The company annually rewarded police officers who have recovered the most number of vehicles.
- This resulted in police officers spending more time recovering vehicles than attending to other pressing crimes due to the incentives offered by Tracker.
- Certain high-ranking officers within the national and provincial commissioners’ offices may have ensured the tender was awarded to Tracker on an ongoing basis.
- The company was engaged in anti-competitive activities because other tracking companies were being prejudiced as Tracker was the only company able to utilise the SAPS’s resources at no cost.
Tracker has denied any wrongdoing, insisting it has followed correct tender protocols and that its partnership with the police has benefited the SAPS as well as the public. It also denies offering financial incentives to policemen.
Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko confirmed that a case had been opened and said they were investigating.
“We are not at a point where we can talk about the progress of the investigations,” he said.
O’Sullivan’s statement said that in 1996 Tracker was awarded their first tender by the SAPS, but that he believed a tender process never took place. Documentation showing that national police commissioner Riah Phiyega signed extensions to the contract were also provided to The Star.
From the partnership, 1 400 SAPS vehicles and 50 SAPS aircraft were fitted with Tracker equipment.
The tracking company also has an annual awards ceremony for police who recover the most vehicles. Police are given trophies, certificates and all-expenses paid trips to Texas for training seminars.
The allegations in the statement continue: “This (partnership) has resulted in SAPS resources, including police officials, radio installations, vehicles, administration, control room personnel and aircraft being utilised by Tracker to recover stolen vehicles. Ultimately, SAPS vehicles are utilised in order for Tracker to make their profit, at the cost of the SAPS and state resources. Not to mention the service shortfall created by multiple police cars chasing one Tracker client’s stolen vehicle.”
O’Sullivan estimated the resource cost (including staff, vehicles and aircraft) to the state to be R2.5bn a year.
“This poses a serious problem, as SAPS officials often neglect other serious crimes such as rape, murder and house-breaking - all because they are motivated to track one stolen vehicle due to the incentive and gratification that they receive from Tracker,” O’Sullivan alleges in the statement.
Tracker told The Star they had followed “to the letter” the tender process as laid out by the government.
“On each occasion, Tracker has been awarded the tender based wholly on merit,” said operations director at Tracker Connect, Ron Knott-Craig.
He said Tracker provided “state-of-the-art national tracking networks, expensive tracking equipment, training and operational support to ensure that the police are ideally placed to carry out their mandate of fighting crime”.
He said the police had a duty to motorists. “Tracker simply enables the police to carry out that duty more effectively and efficiently.”
When asked if the partnership made Tracker money, Knott-Craig said: “Tracker makes no apology for the fact that it is a successful business. (It is proud that) both directly and indirectly, it helps to generate value for its shareholders and creates sustainable employment for many families.”
He said the partnership was a symbiotic union in which everyone, including the public, benefited, adding that were they to remove their tracking technology, expertise and support from the SAPS, vehicle crime would escalate.
“As would the crimes that result from vehicle crime. This includes murder and armed robberies, cash-in-transit heists, ATM bombings etc.”
He denied police were offered financial incentives. “At the end of each year, the top tracking officer and unit are sent to attend an international training seminar on vehicle crime (where) they can improve their police work and crime-fighting knowledge and expertise which they can then pass on to their colleagues.”