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Vehicle roadworthy testing centres in Gauteng have been coining it in an illegal racket resulting in more than 200 000 dangerous vehicles and “death traps” on the roads.
In the lucrative scam, one station netted about R2.6 million in just two months. It fraudulently certified over 12 000 unroadworthy vehicles.
This is according to a report by AST Africa Consulting, which was hired by traffic authorities to probe the fraud.
As many holidaymakers returned to the major cities this weekend before the start of the school year, the country is recording one of the highest festive death tolls in five years. By last night the death toll was at 1 300.
KwaZulu-Natal has also been affected by the scheme, with more than 40 000 vehicles there having been fraudulently certified.
According to KZN authorities, such vehicles played a major role in the festive season death toll - the province registered the highest figure of fatalities on its roads -during the month of December, with 256 people dying in more than 250 accidents.
The report was commissioned by KZN Transport MEC Willies Mchunu.
According to the report, some stations were able to pass vehicles in Gauteng that had failed tests in KZN on the same day, allowing them back on the road.
In one instance, a vehicle failed a test in KZN on June 11 at 10.17am and on the same day, at 2.30pm, was passed at a Gauteng testing centre and was registered on the Transport Department’s Electronic National Traffic Information System (eNatis).
Investigators found that vehicle owners were able to obtain genuine roadworthy certificates in exchange for cash.
One Gauteng-based testing station made R2.6m in two months. The station tested and passed 12 212 vehicles in five months between September 2010 and January 2011.
Of those vehicles 5 740 were from KZN and of these, 561 were minibus taxis.
In the report, investigators said this translated to certifying four illegal minibus taxis a day at a price of R1 500 a vehicle.
“If they operated nine hours a day continuously during this period, including Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, they would have to test a car every six minutes to achieve these numbers,” the report said.
The report states that between December 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011, 208 372 vehicles were tested in Gauteng, illegally obtained their roadworthy certificates and were registered on the eNatis system.
So far the investigation has led to the arrest of eight people and 26 others have been identified but not arrested yet.
Several vehicle testing stations have been closed down.
The KZN National Vehicle Testing Association says several of these vehicles are responsible for some of the worst road accidents due to vehicle testing stations that have illegally passed them.
“We are aware of many outstanding cases that involve contravention of the Road Traffic Act and corruption against individuals but that cannot be closed because there are no investigating officers from the SAPS available,” said association chairman Cecil van den Bergh.
In one letter he wrote to former transport minister S’bu Ndebele, Van den Bergh said: “Every day more and more unroadworthy vehicles are driving on our roads because there are corrupt examiners who issue illegal roadworthy certificates without even seeing the vehicles.
“They (also) carry out soft tests which do not adhere to our laws and this is not being policed adequately and people are dying as a result.”
This week, Van den Bergh said he felt it was a dereliction of duty for officials not to fight the scourge seriously.
“We have been sending the department evidence of such wrongdoing, but it would appear it has all been falling on deaf ears. Only a while ago they started doing something about it,” he said.
S’bu Gumbi, acting head of the KZN Transport Department, said the contract with AST Africa had expired, but the company had still been allowed to work.
Gumbi said the contract was not extended because the department was still dealing with some of the violated contract procedures.
He confirmed that the department had a contract with AST Africa that expired in the middle of last year, but that senior management below him had allowed the company to still do work for the department.
Gumbi added that they recommended that the company be allowed to carry on doing work for the national Department of Transport and Gauteng. - Sunday Independent