Inclusive effort needed to fight VID corruption
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.