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Chaos at licensing centres
Three-month backlog as Gauteng reverts to manual bookings

TimesLive 4 October 2010 

Emotions ran high at the Krugersdorp Licensing Department when people trying to book an appointment for a driver's or learner's licence test were turned away yesterday.

This was after the Gauteng Department of Transport told municipal testing stations to revert to the manual booking system after the provincial call centre for bookings crashed last week.

Applicants in Krugersdorp complained that their failure to secure a booking could cost them their job.

Thabo Mokoena, who was desperately trying to get a booking for a heavy vehicle test in order to avoid being retrenched by his company, said he was frustrated.

"Our company is retrenching so many people but they told me and five other guys to get a code 14 [licence] to avoid being retrenched," he said.

"They are even willing to pay for us but it is impossible to get a date."

Mokoena said he was given three months to get his licence or the offer would expire.

"In the meantime, we are sitting at home and are not getting paid."

People visiting the testing station were greeted by signs posted on walls and doors, saying: "No bookings for learner's and driver's licences until further notice".

Services at the province's testing centres came to a grinding halt following the Gauteng Shared Services Centre's decision to end its contract with the company that managed its call centre and booking system, citing corruption.

There were queues at most of the province's licence centres as people streamed in to try to get appointments.

Cindy van der Merwe, who took a day off work to book for a driver's licence test for her son, Tyron Holgate, said her son was fortunate because his learner's licence will not expire soon.

It took the intervention of Gauteng transport MEC Bheki Nkosi for Holgate to get a booking.

Nkosi, who visited several testing stations, starting at Langlaagte, in western Johannesburg, said about 400 people were queuing at Langlaagte.

"We interacted with the manager there and, by the end of the day, they would have concluded all the 400 applications," he said.

He said the centre, which is the largest and busiest in the province, will need about three weeks to install new computer terminals that will help it to deal with the large number of people expected.

Nkosi said the busiest testing stations in the province would refer licence applicants to centres with no backlog.

Last week, Johannesburg said the backlog for driver's and learner's licences was three months.

Ekurhuleni and Tshwane had similar problems.

Nkosi's spokesman, Philemon Motshwaedi, said the Gauteng Shared Services Centre had "pulled the plug" on its services to put a stop to corruption.

He said call centre agents are believed to have colluded with driving schools and allowed them to monopolise bookings for months on end to the detriment of everyone else.

Call centre management could not be reached for comment.

This article was published on TimesLive on 4 October 2010