Licence cards available at last

2010-03-01 00:00

AFTER a wait of over two months for new or renewed driving licences, the first of the outstanding cards have been delivered to licence centres.

Card manufacturing company Prodiba allegedly withheld the cards because of overdue payments.

One frustrated motorist waited to collect her card from the uMshwathi Municipality for four weeks.

“When I went to collect my card, I was told they hadn’t arrived,” she said. The motorist was told the centre had a “huge amount owing” to Prodiba. She was told her card would arrive last week.

Another driver has been waiting seven weeks for a new licence card. He was told his proof-of-payment receipt would suffice as a licence until the cards arrived.

Spokesmen for the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) were hesitant to comment on the matter, referring to it as a “national problem”.

However, a source inside the RTI described the problem as “really huge”. According to the source, individual licence centres pay Prodiba from the funds the centres generate, and Pro­diba has not been paid “large amounts”.

Transport Department spokesman Sam Monareng disagreed. “It is not possible for testing stations to owe Prodiba any money since Prodiba does not receive any direct payment from them,” he said.

Despite numerous complaints from licensing centres around the country, Monareng denied the existence of a problem. “The department of Transport is not aware of testing stations not receiving licence cards,” he said.

Information, fingerprints, photographs and signatures are sent to Prodiba on an image scanning sheet (ISS). The data from the ISS forms are then used to produce licence cards.

Monareng confirmed licence cards are being produced, and said “the competency of card licence distribution to members of society rests with provincial departments and local authorities.”

According to Prodiba, after manufacture “the cards are delivered, either by mail or courier, to the licensing authority from where the ISSes were generated”.

Licence centres said that until last week, cards had not been delivered to relevant licensing authorities at all.

A new licence card costs around R200. According to the department, Prodiba, receives R40 for every card it makes and “the rest is retained by the relevant traffic authority”.

Prodiba began producing licence cards in 1998. At the time, the department said new tenders would be considered every five years. Despite new tender considerations, Prodiba’s contract has been renewed three times since. Each contract is worth R650 million.

Until 2006, convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik owned a 33% stake in Prodiba.

Shaik was forced to relinquish his share in compliance with the Public Finance Management Act, which prevents the government from dealing with convicted criminals. Face Technologies now owns Shaik’s share in the Prodiba venture.

Ian Minty of Face Technologies said the issue is a departmental one, and “the department controls the whole thing”.

The tender process is shrouded in controversy. In 2004 it was reported that Prodiba was re-awarded the contract without having tendered for it.

Prodiba’s last contract was set to expire at the end of 2009, but was extended for six months when the new tender documents went missing from a secure government facility in November last year.

The Transport Department’s George Mahlalela said there had been a “security breach, where seals were tampered with”.

After the breach, Transport Minister, S’bu Ndebele said new licence cards should be similar to the planned Home Affairs identity cards, and “that is why we decided to extend the existing contract to allow the department time to find a new service provider”, he said.

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