Allegations and investigations of corruption are increasingly appearing in South African headlines as the epidemic of dishonest conduct becomes the norm within the country’s public sector. Most recently, it has come to light that some of those working in our licensing departments prioritise underhand payments over the lives of innocent motorists and pedestrians.
This is according to Ina van der Merwe, CEO and founder of African background screening company Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE), responding to the recent suspension of over 70 staff members from six licensing and testing stations for alleged corruption.
“These suspensions are a result of over 900 cases of fraud and corruption in licensing departments across Johannesburg between February 2008 and January 2016 which have led to losses of over R14-million,” she says.
“The financial cost is clear, however, the cost to the reputation of the licensing process within the country as well as the lives which may be – directly and indirectly – impacted by those who have obtained their licence illegally is unknown.
“One can imagine that this is merely the tip of the iceberg as many more cases may still be revealed in Johannesburg – and across the rest of the country. It is also likely that hundreds, if not thousands, of cases may never be uncovered,” Van der Merwe adds.
In support of current investigations relating to the matter, van der Merwe suggests that additional measures be taken to combat corruption.
“While employers are able to verify the licences of staff – which is an important step to rule out fake or altered documentation when driving is an integral part of their job – in cases where official documentation has been issued by a corrupt official, verification searches may not highlight the documentation as anything out of the ordinary.
“It is therefore of upmost importance that we get down to the root of the problem and identify those responsible for the initial misconduct. In many cases this involves department officials, testers and even some driving instructors who con or scare learner drivers into paying to pass their test,” she explains.
Van der Merwe urges the leadership of these licensing and testing centres – and decision-makers within the department – to take necessary action. “Comprehensive background screening of potential and existing employees as well as the implementation of software solutions that can identify potentially corrupt relationships and conflicts of interest between staff, suppliers and clients, can prove extremely beneficial in this regard.
“It is also essential for the public to play their part. When deciding on a driving school, make sure to verify that it is affiliated to a professional association like The South African Institute of Driving Instructors and, if you are asked for a bribe, do the right thing and decline. Be sure to report corrupt incidents to the Department of Transport’s Investigations and Forensics Sub-directorate,” she adds.