DURBAN – THOUSANDS of motorists who were issued with traffic fines after breaking the law on KwaZulu-Natal roads may have escaped scot-free as the Department of Transport has failed to capture traffic infringements amounting to more than R150 million into its system.
The office of the Auditor-General revealed this at a meeting with the department this week.
It said that the department had failed to capture traffic violations which amounted to R158m.
The department reported revenue of R465m from traffic violations, but the A-G said it could have collected R158m more.
But the Transport Department’s chief financial officer Wayne Evans yesterday disputed many aspects of the A-G’s findings.
The revelation outraged political parties, which described this as an indication that the department’s staff did not take their work seriously.
The issue, according to a report on the matter that was tabled before the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), occurred as the department was moving from an old traffic management system, Trafman, to the new Opus system.
Information from hand-written tickets was not properly processed to allow it to be uploaded to the new system.
As explained to The Mercury by DA MPL Sharon Hoosen, failure to properly capture the violations means that if a motorist was given a ticket for a traffic violation, that paper ticket was not properly uploaded to the new system.
As the violations were not captured this raises questions of whether the legal process came into effect and if a motorist will be liable for the fine.
In its report, the A-G said it tested the value of traffic infringement notices issued during the 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years and identified that a significant proportion of the fines had not been captured into the Traffic Contravention System.
As a result, the value of accrued departmental revenue disclosed for the year was understated, it said.
“The accrued departmental revenue stated at R465.29m was understated by R158.66m,” read the report.
Despite the commitment from all relevant station commanders to ensure a smooth transition to the new system in April this year, said the report, it was clear that there was a problem.
In October last year, said the report, a template had been devised to enable stations to capture legacy information that would be uploaded to the Opus system.
The template was circulated to all station commanders for their attention and accountability to ensure that all the relevant information was captured on the templates and submitted for uploading to Opus.
It said that on November 3 last year, the station commanders were engaged via a virtual forum and guided with clear directives on the roll-out, completion of templates, and submission of templates to Opus.
“All station commanders provided written undertakings that they had complied in entirety to the instruction and directives of the Legacy upload requirements.
“However, in late April 2021, it became clear that the station commanders had not ensured that the Legacy project was satisfactorily completed,” said the report.
It recommended an improvement strategy that included the retraining or reskilling of users at station level to arrest the situation.
Opposition parties in the legislature said the revelations were unacceptable and provided enough proof that department employees were under-performing.
Hoosen said the revelations were damning.
“What we now have is a situation where the department has not captured traffic offences for some two years while its heads of department were fast asleep.
“To make matters worse, the RTI terminated its contracts with summons servers in April 2019. This after it employed individuals who did not have vehicles, making it impossible to deliver any summons to traffic violators in time.
“Some of the people that had been appointed to deliver summons were old and some did not have cars. How are you going to deliver a summons when you cannot travel?”
She said this also meant that some of the summons were delivered long after the period to deliver them had expired.
“This debacle has shown very clearly why KZN continues to see an increase in road accidents and lawless drivers,” she said.
IFP Scopa member Lourens de Klerk said the Department of Transport has been in disarray for the past 10 years.
“I do not know how they are going to fix this, that department should be under administration, there is no consequence management and officials do what they like.
“They are failing to follow proper procedures,” he said.
But Evans, disputed that they had suffered rand losses, saying what was being calculated was the value of the fines.
He said the main issue was that the fines were just under-reported.
“We had under-reported these, instead of reporting 10 that were issued, we reported eight, for instance. These are fines that were issued on the side of the road for people to appear in court. As far as we know, there is no evidence that the summons were not sent to court.”
Article written by: Thami Magubane
Photo credit: News