The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has revealed that the backlog in driver’s licence cards in South Africa is not only due to a broken printing machine, but also a money-making “empire” inside the Department of Transport (DOT), according to a report by MyBroadband.
The report states that the only licence card printing machine in the country is 20 years old and has been broken since mid-November 2021, despite multiple warnings from the DA that the machine must be repaired or upgraded.
Earlier this month, the DOT confirmed that the machine was still broken – but provided no more updates.
This has led to approximately half a million motorists being stuck with an expired driving licence card.
As a result, motorists with an expired driving licence card now only have the option to obtain a temporary driving permit for R90.
Issuing of these permits will bring in an estimated R45 million for the DOT.
According to Outa CEO Wayne Duvenhage, they do not know when the machine will be fixed or whether the DOT will buy a new one. Outa attempted to contact the DOT for clarity, but received no reply, it said.
In an interview with Biznews, Duvenage said one of the main reasons for the DOT’s inefficiency is due to it becoming a money-making scheme.
“We are unpacking reports and have found very interesting stuff,” said Duvenage.
“It is a small department, and it doesn’t need a lot of people, but there is a little empire. It seems to be making quite a lot of money, and there are surpluses there.”
He went on to liken the DOT to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).
The RTMC is doing everything it can to make money instead of making motorists’ lives easier, he said. This includes the astronomical prices it asks for online services.
Going into the physical licencing office to renew your licence card is cheap, but inefficient. However, if you perform the same service online, it will cost R700.
“That is the reverse of what happens with normal businesses,” said Duvenage.
“Can you imagine a bank charging you more to go online and trying to encourage people to go into the bank to do their transactions? It doesn’t work like that in the world, but at the Department of Transport, it appears to be the norm.”
The report went on to state that since May 2015, the Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA) has been a separate entity under the DOT which took over the production of licence cards.
Between 2019 and 2022, the lowest-paid employees from the DLCA earned an average of R100,000 a year, with little to no increases.
The top four employees started with an average of R800,000 per year in 2019, however, which increased to an average of R1.5 million by the end of 2021.
In 2019, the top four employees cost the DLCA R3.3 million collectively. In 2021, this grew to R6.1 million.
Extended renewal period
Duvenhage said one way to resolve at least some of the problems at the DOT would be to extend the driving licence card renewal period from the current five years, to 10 years.
“We wrote to the Minister of Transport suggesting this. We also found that in 2013, under Dipuo Peters, a 10-year renewal period instead of 5 years has already been approved,” he said.
“However, this decision was rescinded and we believe that is because they were going to lose a lot of money.”