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N Cape acts against illegally issued taxi permits

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The Northern Cape Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison is taking action against illegally issued taxi operating licences.

Following internal investigations that uncovered discrepancies in the number of permits issued, the department has started a process of withdrawing 316 illegally issued operating licences.

The department took a decision to put a moratorium on the issuing of operating licences from 1 June 2015 to 31 December 2016 to manage a backlog of operating licence applications. This was done to ensure that the market was not oversaturated, and to keep it profitable for existing operators and meet the needs of the public. It was during this process that discrepancies were uncovered.

The Provincial Regulating Entity (PRE), which is responsible for adjudicating operating licence applications, detected some irregularities while addressing the backlog in the influx of operating licences issued. The permits dispatched contradicted the provisions made in the National Land Act, No 5 of 2009.

The discovery led the department instituting internal investigations on the matter. The moratorium was uplifted on 1 April 2017.

The investigations in the department subsequently revealed that 316 applications were approved unlawfully.

To address the illegal issuance of operating licences, the department then evoked Section 79 of the National Land Transport Act, which stipulates that any licence issued irregularly should be withdrawn by the PRE.

The department has thus far issued 316 letters through registered mail, stating the intention to withdraw the operating licences to all the affected operators.

The letters also stated that the permits were unlawfully approved but the operators could oppose the intended withdrawal by providing reasons the withdrawal should not be effected.

In addition, failure to dispute the withdrawal within the stipulated time, a process to withdraw the operating licence would unfold.

Applicants have also been given an opportunity to reapply for the operating licences at no cost and should the application qualify, the permit would be granted accordingly, the department said.

Of the 316 letters issued through registered mail, 173 of the letters were returned to the department as they were not collected at the Post Office.

The department has then implemented other avenues to ensure the uncollected letters are delivered to the remaining operators through engagements with taxi associations, as some operators have been identified as members thereof.

The department, to date, has distributed 105 withdrawals letters to operators with illegally issued operating licences notifying them that their licences have been withdrawn.

According to the department, the decision to have the illegally issued licences withdrawn has also been welcomed by taxi associations in the province.

In May 2018, the Northern Cape Transport MEC met with all taxi associations, the majority of which said the irregularly issued permits must be withdrawn.

Subsequent to that meeting, associations have shown interest in the withdrawal of unlawful operating licences by enquiring on the feedback.

Meanwhile, the implicated official has been charged and disciplinary proceedings have been instituted internally by the department.

The Commercial Crimes Unit of the Hawks has also started its own investigations into the matter and the department has pledged its full support and cooperation during the process.

Furthermore, the department's Public Transport Inspectorate (PTI) will continue to enforce compliance and check conditions of operating licences in the province.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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