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Learner transport scam uncovered

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IOL money_feb 17

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Kimberley - An investigation that exposes large-scale corruption in the learner transport industry in the Northern Cape, has uncovered how learners’ lives are being endangered by rickety vehicles.

The document marked “secret” was compiled by the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison’s office in the Frances Baard District in August 2012.

While it was advised that criminal charges be laid against the service providers, no apparent action has been taken so far.

The investigation delves into how the transport scheme of learners to Nazareth House School in Warrenton, the Northern Cape Agricultural School as well as Tadcaster Primary School in Jan Kempdorp and Motswedi-Thuto Primary in Hartswater, was open to abuse.

Despite being paid hundreds of thousands of rands per month, the vehicles of the service providers were declared unsafe, were found to be heavily overloaded while false travel claims were submitted to the department for payment.

Learners at Tadcaster Primary School in Jan Kempdorp embarked on a strike, last year, refusing to be transported in buses that were leaking oil and emitting large, black clouds of smoke.

They were also at times, loaded into the back of a Ford Bantam bakkie.

The task team that was appointed to investigate these transport irregularities interviewed the service provider, who admitted that he only had one bus, instead of the specified eight vehicles.

He denied that he was acting as a front for his uncle, who was also the principal of a high school in Jan Kempdorp.

He received R192 044,60 every month from the department and admitted that he made use of subcontractors to transport learners.

The vehicles belonging to another service provider operating in Warrenton, Jan Kempdorp and Hartswater, had expired roadworthy licences on most of his buses.

Invoices submitted to the department amount to R562 076 during April and May 2012.

Instead of making use of eight vehicles as stipulated in the contract, he was only making use of one.

An inspection at his house in August last year revealed that there were no vehicles parked on his premises, except for a red Honda and that he did not possess a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP).

The operator indicated that roadworthy tests were done at a private testing station in Kimberley, although Jan Kempdorp is equipped with its own testing station.

The dossier detected a breach in the service level agreement signed on April 22 2012.

It reported and advised that his contract be terminated and that the money be recovered for services that were never rendered.

The principals of the schools and parents complained to the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison that learners were arriving late for school since February 2012, where there was often no transport services available.

The report highlighted how 190 learners were transported to Nazareth House School in Warrenton in a 53-seater bus.

The driver had to make three trips to transport learners to school from Warrenton, Vermeulen’s farm and Ikhutseng Community Hall.

This resulted in learners being late since October 11 2011 to date.

The service provider made use of vehicles owned by his uncle as the only form of back-up transport and did not have any other standby vehicles. His uncle also did not possess a valid PrDP.

Learners at the Northern Cape Agricultural High School were continually arriving late since February 2012 due to inconsistencies in the provision of transport.

They would only arrive at home between 5.30pm and 6pm and were often inconvenienced by the non-arrival of the driver as well as vehicle breakdowns.

On August 6 and 7 2012 learners were dropped off in Jan Kempdorp and were required to walk from town to school.

The principal had requested that another service provider be appointed because he was not satisfied with the quality of services offered.

The buses that were registered in the name of this service provider were not the same vehicles that were used to transport the learners.

Some of the vehicles that were listed in his name had broken down or were parked at the mechanic for repairs.

An inspection that was conducted on August 21 2012 at Nazareth School, discovered that a bus offloaded seven learners on the corner of the street while another 31 learners were dropped off at the school. The bus was overloaded where 38 learners were transported in a 26-seater bus.

Several other service providers in these districts, including a principal at Hartsvaal School, were also not compliant with the safety regulations and did not possess the necessary roadworthy certificates.

Spokesman for the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, Lebogang Majaha, stated that the department remained steadfast on service delivery.

“We uphold the Batho Pele principle as part of maintaining an open door policy for service delivery issues.

“However, our office wishes to study the nature of the allegations. We will respond promptly thereafter, on our findings.”

Daimond Fields Advertiser


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