Sunday, 09 January 2022 12:05

Civil group Outa slams Department of Transport over driver’s license saga.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Civil action group Outa has slammed the Department of Transport’s (DoT’s) failure to buy a new driver’s licence card machine, despite amassing a surplus of more than R400m from renewals over the last nine years.

The two-decade-old driver’s licence card machine broke down on 7 November 2021, resulting in a substantial backlog of around 383,000 unrenewed licences less than a month later.

But Outa has revealed the department had acknowledged the machine was run-down and needed to be replaced as far back as March 2021.

That was contained in the 2021/2022 annual performance plan of the Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA), a separate trading entity under the DoT which took over the production of the driving licence cards from May 2015,including a redesign of the current licence card to a plastic one, from the current laminated version.

The DLCA has been the sole producer of the cards since then and generates its revenue from the sale of the cards.

According to Outa, the entity’s annual performance plan for the current financial year claimed its current technology was "obsolete" and hampered delivery.

It also stated a new card machine was to be procured in 2021/22 but did not indicate the costs.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula and the department’s Director-General signed off on this plan in March 2021.

"Presumably, that new machine was not bought, as the machine which broke last year seems to be the only one available," Outa said.

Outa said the entity seemingly had more than enough money to replace the machine.

"The brief financials provided in the plan and the budget show that the DLCA runs a surplus every year," it stated.

"If this is accumulated, then the surpluses for the last nine years total R413m."

Outa also called out the DLCA for not providing a consistent tally of the actual number of cards it had issued.

"The DLCA plan says that it produced 1.2 million cards during 2020/2021 and expects to produce 1.2 million in 2021/2022 and 2 million in 2022/2023,"Outa said.

"However, the DLCA budget included in the DoT’s budget vote says it produced 2.5 million cards in 2020/2021 and expects to produce 2.6 million in 2021/2022 and 2.6 million in 2022/2023."

What is even stranger is that both documents listed the same revenue from the sales of the different number of cards.

"The sole purpose of this entity is to produce driving licence cards, but it cannot even count the number of cards it issues. This indicates chaos in the DLCA,"Outa stated.

Outa has also pointed out a considerable discrepancy in the handling of the salaries of lower-level and senior employees, with the latter getting a "cushy" salary arrangement.

"For the three years from 2019/2020 to 2021/2022, the DLCA’s lowest-paid employees got an average of R100,000 a year each, showing no or minimal increase," Outa said.

"Over the same years, the DLCA’s top four employees started with an average of R800,000 a year each but increased 88% to an average of R1.5m each."

"In 2019/2020 the top four collectively cost R3.3m, 1.8 times the cost of the bottom 17. By 2021/2022, the top four collectively cost R6.1m, 2.4 times the total cost of the bottom 19 employees, despite the addition of two more in the bottom rung," it added.

Outa called these remuneration disparities and the "huge" increases for top management inexcusable, particularly given the "collapse of the driving licence card system in Gauteng".