There is a good chance the validity period of the new driving licence card for South African motorists will be increased from five to eight years. The decision is however still subject to Cabinet approval.
Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga confirmed this week that this is the proposal her department will be taking to Cabinet “soonest”.
She said the decision to increase the validity period was based on an investigation commissioned by former transport minister Fikile Mbalula to determine international trends in this regard.
Mbalula indicated in 2022 that a new smart card driving licence would be introduced in South Africa in 2023.
Moneyweb emailed the Department of Transport (DoT) a number of questions about the new card, including the delay in introducing it.
DoT spokesperson Collen Msibi said the department is in the process of introducing the new card. “After Cabinet approval was obtained [in August 2022] for the new licence card, a tender process was undertaken, which resulted in a ‘no award’. The tender was subsequently readvertised and it closed in May this year.
“It is anticipated that the new driving licence card will be launched before the end of the current 2023/24 financial year,” he said.
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Msibi did not respond fully to a number of questions, including the reason for the “no award” in the first tender process.
“It should be stated that processes surrounding the receipt, evaluation and resultant awards or non-award of tenders are run according to prescripts and regulations.
“It is crucial for the department to protect the integrity of these processes. The department will only communicate on these matters once they are finalised,” he said.
It is unclear how full transparency will negatively impact the integrity of a tender process.
The DoT was also asked how many new driving licence card production machines will be acquired, from whom, their cost, and when these machines will be in South Africa.
Msibi said there is only one driving licence card production machine currently in operation, and should there be changes, these will be communicated.
He said the company that will provide the machines and the cost cannot be determined at this point because the tender process is still to be concluded.
The number of card-producing machines acquired is important to motorists, particularly those who have to renew their licence, because the current card production machine in the country has broken down several times in recent years.
This has led to a backlog in the production of the cards and motorists being forced, through no fault of their own, to drive with expired driving licences.
Msibi said the pilot phase of the new card will be undertaken once all preparations have been finalised and systems are in place.
He was also cautious in his answer as to how much the new driving licence will cost motorists.
“This cannot be determined at this point. Should the status quo change, this will be communicated accordingly,” he said.
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The DoT also failed to respond to several questions emailed to the department on 22 June 2023 for clarification on some of its initial responses, including:
- The reasons for not making an award during the first tender process;
- How many bids were received for the tender that closed in May 2023;
- If the current tender is currently being adjudicated or if a shortlist of bidders has been drawn up or if the tender has been awarded and, if so, to whom and the value of the contract; and
- Where the published tender can be accessed.
Mbalula said in September 2022 the new card will be piloted from 1 November 2023 until 31 March 2024 and the current driving licence card and equipment used to produce it, whose technology is now obsolete, will be decommissioned on 1 April 2024.
He added that:
- There will be a five-year period of transition from the old card to the new one;
- Current cards will continue to be recognised as valid driving licence cards until 31 March 2029; and
- The new driving licence cards are “not going to eat the pocket of the motorist” and gave the assurance the government is “not looking at taxing people to upgrade”.
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) CEO Wayne Duvenage said on Wednesday it is a bit of a relief it has been proposed that the validity period of driving licence cards be extended, but questioned why it will not be extended to 10 years.
He said Outa did an online presentation to Mbalula when the card-producing machines had broken down and there was corruption in the booking of driving licence card renewals and issuing of new cards – informing him that its research showed the validity period of driving licence cards in most countries is 10 years.
Duvenage said Outa also told Mbalula amendments extending the validity period to 10 years were gazetted by former transport minister Dipuo Peters but “quietly ungazetted” and withdrawn without any explanation to the public.
He said the lack of transparency is a concern, particularly as this is the fourth, if not the fifth time, this tender has been issued in the past three to four years and it is closed each time without any award being made and the DoT then starts the process again.
‘It’s just crazy …’
“I’ve spoken to one of the tenderers and they said it’s just crazy,” said Duvenage.
“It costs a lot of time, effort and money and every time you redo it, they [the DoT] get insights into people’s tenders,” he added
“This is a common agenda. They take this information and give it to their cronies, who then formulate similar tenders and then find other middlemen to do it or end suppliers. But they put in these middlemen costs.
“The legitimate guys who try to get this tender say this is a corrupt deal and it’s going to be fudged and pushed in such a way that a favoured entity gets it.
“It’s not transparent enough. When you sign the tender and a company comes and does this for five or 10 years, there’s money to be made, even if it’s R5 per card. So you want to know who the middlemen are and why it’s costing so much,” he said.
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AA spokesperson Layton Beard said extending the validity period to eight years is better than the current five but the AA believes a 10-year validity period is optimal.
“But it’s a start in the right direction and we will get a sense of how effective it is and it may be reviewed at a later stage.”
Beard added that if there is a lack of transparency in the procurement and tender process, “people are going to draw their own conclusions”.
“You have to ask government why they feel the need to not be more open in terms of this process.”
This article originally appeared on Moneyweb and was republished with permission. Read the original article here.