PUTCO has continued to lie about when the bus that crashed this week, killing 19 people, passed a roadworthy test.
Yesterday, the company insisted that the bus had passed a roadworthy test on June 14.
But The Star can reveal that the ill-fated bus number 7167C had missed a deadline for a second retest on June 21 – three days before the fatal accident near Meyerton.
This is after it failed an inspection test on June 12 because its brakes were defective.
Documents seen by The Star show that the bus, with registration number PVM843GP, was among the 23 Putco buses from a fleet of 38 that failed the test on June 12 in the Meyerton testing centre. Of the 23 buses, 11 failed a further retest.
On June 14, the Midvaal traffic department sent Putco a letter indicating that the buses should be brought to the testing station on June 21 for another retest. This was, however, not done.
Three days later, on June 25, bus number 7167C veered off the road, crashed through a barrier and landed in a trench, killing 19 people and leaving 55 others injured. One is still in intensive care.
Putco said in a statement that the bus had passed an inspection test on June 14. On Wednesday, The Star published a story saying the bus had failed a test on June 12. Putco then sought to refute the article in an e-mail response on Wednesday.
“We are… disturbed that even before the release of the finding of the (independent) investigators, incorrect information is punted on the media. Bus 7167C was indeed roadworthy… It is the policy of the company never to dispatch buses with defects on the road,” said Putco spokesman Raphiri Matsaneng.
Putco’s letter shows that bus number 7167C passed the test. But a copy of the same document from the Midvaal traffic department reflects that the bus had failed a retest.
Preliminary investigations by officials at the Midvaal traffic department revealed that the letter was not a roadworthy certificate, but a reminder to Putco about the scheduled date to take its buses for retesting.
“That can only be a falsified letter because it’s clear it has been altered,” said a source privy to the documents.
“That bus shouldn’t have been on the road since June 12, unless it was brought for retesting. Even if we had to check with eNatis, the system will reflect that it was deregistered as it had (brake) defects identified.”
Sources said Putco could have altered the letter dated June 14, and then “ostensibly” tested the bus at its private station and registered the bus into the eNatis system.
“It surprises us that the bus seems to reflect as tested in the eNatis. If somebody who is not even a government employee is able to tamper with the eNatis, then we have a serious problem (of corruption),” said a source.
Department of Transport spokesman Sam Monareng declined to comment.
Road Traffic Management Corporation enforcement senior manager Ashref Ismail said that “if the documents and findings of the investigations are true, we will deal very decisively with the operator (Putco). We will also investigate the relevant testing station.”
He added that the corporation had deployed special examiners to work with the police’s mechanical examiners.