Inclusive ef­fort needed to fight VID cor­rup­tion

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

The Ve­hi­cle In­spec­torate De­part­ment (VID) has a long­stand­ing rep­u­ta­tion for cor­rup­tion, just like the Zim­babwe Rev­enue Au­thor­ity . It is an open se­cret that many peo­ple are forced to pay some VID of­fi­cials for them to be de­clared to have passed es­pe­cially the prac­ti­cal road test. Ad­verse cir­cum­stances are cre­ated and hints dropped to prod learner driv­ers into pay­ing the ex­am­iner a bribe. With­out it, chances of one get­ting the cov­eted driv­ers’ li­cence are slim. There have been com­plaints that even if one passes the in-de­pot tests — the hill-start, par­al­lel park­ing and the feared re­verse ma­neu­ver “into drums” — aspir­ing driv­ers that don’t pay the bribes are of­ten de­lib­er­ately failed when they go on the road drive, the fi­nal leg of the ex­am­i­na­tion.

It is said one must go through all the in-de­pot tests for the deal to work. Once they do that, even if they drive in­ap­pro­pri­ately on the road, they are guar­an­teed the li­cence.

In ex­treme cases some peo­ple don’t have to go through all these for­mal­i­ties. Their driver’s li­cences are ac­tu­ally posted to wher­ever they are. The word is that the bribe in this in­stance is dou­ble the nor­mal one.

In ad­di­tion, bribes are said to also ex­change hands in the is­suance of cer­tifi­cates of fit­ness for pub­lic ser­vice ve­hi­cles. In this area, of­fi­cials will be check­ing the func­tion­al­ity of brakes, lights, mir­rors and sus­pen­sion of taxis, buses and other pub­lic pas­sen­ger or cargo ve­hi­cles. Ve­hi­cles be­long­ing to those that don’t pay even if they are in an ac­cept­able con­di­tion, it is said, would be failed. This means that their ve­hi­cles will have to be parked un­til iden­ti­fied de­fects are fixed. A busi­nessper­son for whom a parked truck, bus or taxi equals busi­ness lost, might find the temp­ta­tion to give a bribe tol­er­a­ble.

Cor­rup­tion is crim­i­nal and for the VID the im­pli­ca­tions are much worse be­cause they com­pro­mise road safety. Like we pointed out, it is pos­si­ble for an in­com­pe­tent per­son to get a li­cence as they sit at home as long as they have the money to bribe an of­fi­cer, the same man­ner in which a pub­lic trans­port op­er­a­tor can get cer­tifi­cates of fit­ness for un­road­wor­thy ve­hi­cles as long as they have money to pay a bribe.

A driver who se­cures a li­cence in a cor­rupt man­ner is a dan­ger to him­self and other road users. A ve­hi­cle that is li­censed to move on the roads when it mustn’t is equally dan­ger­ous.

We note the work that the Govern­ment is do­ing to rid the VID of cor­rup­tion as Trans­port and In­fras­truc­tural De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter, Jo­ram Gumbo said else­where in this is­sue. He said the Govern­ment has fired 32 of­fi­cers for cor­rup­tion and can­celled 199 driv­ers’ and pro­vi­sional li­cences that were ir­reg­u­larly is­sued coun­try­wide.

Speak­ing in Par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day, Min­is­ter Gumbo said:

“VID de­pots are grouped into three cat­e­gories, that is, small, medium and big, re­spec­tively for pur­poses of analysing their per­for­mance and the strat­egy helps the min­istry to mon­i­tor per­for­mance per de­pot and be able to iden­tify the ex­is­tence of way­ward be­hav­iour through daily, weekly and monthly re­turns and re­ports anal­y­sis. This strat­egy has demon­strated its ef­fec­tive­ness from 2009 to cur­rent, where 32 of­fi­cers were fired when it sur­faced from the anal­y­sis on the re­turns that cor­rup­tion was tak­ing place at 13 VID de­pots namely, Eastlea, Belvedere, Chi­tung­wiza, Gweru, Mutare, Chiredzi, Bin­dura, Kadoma, Vic­to­ria Falls, Zvisha­vane, Nyama­panda, Chin­hoyi and Maron­dera, which is­sued 199 driv­ers and pro­vi­sional li­cences to un­de­serv­ing ap­pli­cants and were can­celled by the min­istry.”

In ad­di­tion to the fir­ing of cor­rupt of­fi­cers, he said the Govern­ment has put up no­tice boards at all VID de­pots and in­tro­duced three toll free num­bers, in­form­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic to call the sup­plied num­bers if they have been asked for con­sid­er­a­tion or bribe by VID of­fi­cials in or­der to pass a driver’s li­cence or a pro­vi­sional li­cence test.

He spoke about a pol­icy to con­stantly move of­fi­cers around to en­sure that they don’t build strong re­la­tion­ships with clients, re­la­tion­ships that of­ten de­te­ri­o­rate into cor­rupt li­aisons. Au­to­ma­tion of the VID, he said would help stem cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties, the same way com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of the Govern­ment de­part­ment would.

Con­stant move­ment of of­fi­cers can be very ef­fec­tive be­cause peo­ple who are com­fort­able en­gag­ing in cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties are those that have been in their posts and work sta­tions for long pe­ri­ods. A new per­son needs time to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with their new en­vi­ron­ment and the pub­lic he serves also need time to un­der­stand the of­fi­cer, whether he can be cor­rupted or not. If that of­fi­cer is moved af­ter three years, chances are that they would not have en­trenched them­selves yet to en­gage in cor­rup­tion as much as one who is de­ployed at one sta­tion for 10 years.

Au­to­ma­tion should work as well as it min­imises the in­ter­face of the of­fi­cials and their publics, with that, the pos­si­bil­ity of both par­ties strik­ing dirty deals.

How­ever, we ar­gue that com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of VID will be im­por­tant in en­hanc­ing the ef­fi­ciency and ef­fec­tive­ness of the de­part­ment but is un­likely to do any­thing in re­duc­ing cor­rup­tion.

While, we con­demn of­fi­cers for de­mand­ing and re­ceiv­ing bribes, we ac­knowl­edge that they only do so be­cause some­one is will­ing to pay the in­duce­ments. We there­fore urge the peo­ple to shun cor­rup­tion and the Govern­ment to also tar­get mem­bers of the pub­lic who com­pro­mise of­fi­cials.

It is plau­si­ble that in ad­di­tion to fir­ing the 32 of­fi­cers, the Govern­ment also pun­ished the 199 peo­ple who had ac­quired driv­ers’ li­cences cor­ruptly by can­celling them.

Driv­ing school in­struc­tors are of­ten the con­duit link­ing the aspir­ing driver and the VID of­fi­cials. Thus, ef­forts to de­feat cor­rup­tion in the ac­qui­si­tion of driv­ers’ li­cences should cover the in­struc­tors as well.

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