putco stalls on PROBE

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LEBOGANG SEALE

lebogang.seale@inl.co.za

PUTCO has continued to lie about when the bus, which crashed, killing 19 people earlier this week, passed a roadworthy test.

Yesterday, the company insisted that the bus had passed a roadworthy test on June 14.

But The Star Africa 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 in the Vaal.

This is after it failed an inspection test on June 12 when its brakes were found to have been defective.

Documents in The Star Africa’s possession show that the bus, with registration number PVM 843GP, was among the 23 Putco buses from a fleet of 38 that failed the test on June 12 in Meyerton testing centre. Of the 23 buses, eleven had 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 test.

This was not done. Instead 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 person is still in ICU.

Putco issued a statement saying the bus had passed an inspection test on June 14.

On Wednesday, The Star Africa 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 spokesman Raphiri Matsaneng.

Putco’s letter shows that bus number 7167C passed the test.

But a copy of the same document from Midvaal Traffic Department reflects that the bus had actually “failed a retest”.

Alerted to the conflicting versions of the document by The Star Africa, officials at Midvaal’s traffic department held an impromptu meeting to investigate.

Their preliminary investigations revealed that the letter was not a roadworthy certificate, but a reminder to Putco to take their buses for retesting.

“That can only be a falsified letter because it’s clear it’s been altered. Still, it’s a useless document because it is not proof that the bus was cleared. If it was proof, the letter would bear the letterhead of Sedibeng District Municipality,” said a source privy to the documents relating to Putco’s tests.

“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 the eNatis, the system will reflect that it was deregistered as it had (brakes) defects identified.”

Sources said Putco could have altered the letter dated June 14, and then “ostensibly” tested the bus at their 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.

The Department of Transport spokesman Sam Monareng declined to comment.

“Let’s allow the investigation to be concluded. We don’t want to pre-empt the outcome,” he said.

Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) enforcement senior manager Ashref Ismail was forthright about the possible punitive measures.

“If it is found that the documents and the findings of the investigations are true, we will deal decisively with the operator (Putco) … We will also investigate the relevant testing station.”

Matsaneng insisted yesterday that the bus had passed the test. “We have a document that we think is authentic and signed by Midvaal (traffic department),” he said.


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