Over 900 cases opened as Jo’burg cracks down on licensing department corruption

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Earlier this month‚ Tony Taverna-Turisan‚ spokesperson for Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba‚ said corruption was “deplorable”‚ promising that more suspensions would follow‚ after the arrest of seven officials at licensing departments in Sandton and Martindale.

Taverna-Turisan said at least 70 other officials had been suspended by today.

“This is part of the process and we hope to see more arrests to be carried out in the near future and we are working closely with the Hawks and the national prosecuting authority.”

He said the 972 cases of fraud and corruption at licensing departments across Johannesburg between February 2008 and January 2016 had created more than R14-million in losses through fraudulent activities.

“The Mayor has made it clear that corruption is public enemy number one. We need to rid this City of corrupt individuals who enrich themselves at the expense of our residents. We need to create a professional public service‚ which serves the residents of our city with pride‚” said Taverna-Turisan.

The mayor’s office said it had made provision for some of the positions to be filled.

“About 40 new staff members were recruited prior to the operation and staff members from other sections within the Licensing Department will be deployed to the vacant positions so as to eliminate the effect on the operations‚” said Taverna-Turisan.

Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) spokesperson Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar confirmed the suspensions of 71 licensing department officials across licensing and testing station across Johannesburg.

“More than 70 staff members have been suspended for alleged corruption‚ these include licensing offices in Midrand‚ Randburg‚ Marlboro‚ Roodepoort‚ Langlaagte and Martindale‚” he said.

“Temporary staff will be used to fill vacancies quickly where it is possible‚” Minnaar said.

He confirmed that criminal investigations by the Hawks were on-going.

South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) representative Paul Tlhabang said they were caught off guard and felt that the city and JMPD weren’t cooperating with them.

“We are not getting reasons as to why they’re not cooperating… To our dismay‚ while we were waiting for their responses‚ they decided to serve letters of suspension to our members‚” he said.

Tlhabang said the union was currently assisting 80 licensing and testing station employees who had been suspended by the City.

The Automobile Association (AA) said it welcomed the suspension of 70 officials at six vehicle testing centres in Gauteng for corruption.

“This is an important development in making roads safer in South Africa‚” the AA said in a statement.

“Many problems associated with road safety begin and end at the licensing centres. Various administrations in the transport department have expressed concern about rampant corruption at these centres‚ which puts incompetent and dangerous drivers on our roads‚ as well as unsafe‚ un-roadworthy vehicles. For us this is an encouraging‚ and long-overdue‚ first step in dealing with these problems‚” the AA said.

“People who have bought their driving licences or roadworthy certificates also need to be aware that the law may be coming after them. Incompetent drivers‚ and un-roadworthy vehicles‚ are major contributors to deaths on our roads and the licensing staff are only part of that problem. Citizens who are buying these documents are also complicit in criminality and must be dealt with‚” the AA said.

TMG Digital/The Times

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