A syndicate in Bulawayo City Council’s traffic section is allegedly clamping cars in the city and then soliciting for bribes from owners before they even pay at the local authority’s revenue office, it has been learnt.
Further, it has also been claimed that the syndicate is manipulating the council’s system to cancel tickets especially from pirate tax operators in exchange for bribes.
This was revealed in an audit report that was instituted by the council after a complaint by a public transport operator who had refused to pay a $80 bribe that was being demanded by a council official after her vehicle had been impounded.
According to a council confidential report, the audit started on 1 December last year ending on 27 February 2017 and during that period alone the local authority was prejudiced of $96 293 through a number of scams which include; clearing of tickets without payment and underpayment of storage fees.
“Of the five percent tickets examined, revenue leakages amounting to $46 666 were noted culminating in various fraudulent forms ranging from use of consumer receipts to unauthorised cancellations to clearing outstanding tickets.
“Of the 3 200 tickets examined, 1 574 (49 percent) were unprocedurally cleared from the database. There is evidence of manipulation of the traffic database facilitated by unlimited access levels and lack of audit trail. Laxity in performing duties is also evident as concerned staff told audit that at times they do not physically check proof of payment but rely on assumptions that clients have paid,” reads part of the report.
It was revealed that there was evidence within the section that vehicle towing and storage fees were not being paid despite the release of the offending vehicles.
Further, record books for towed and stored vehicles were said to be missing this thereby affecting the reconciliation of records between council’s financial services department and the traffic unit.
“Regarding fraud allegations and deliberate failure to enforce traffic by-laws by traffic personnel namely; Locadia Ndlovu, Mncedisi Dube and Mzimkhulu Dube, audit through interviews established that the complainant Siphephisiwe Ncube had been advised not to reveal that her vehicle was clamped, and instead should ask to pay for outstanding tickets.
“The concerned staff members admitted that they did not satisfy themselves that the complainant had paid for all outstanding tickets but had proceeded to unclamp her vehicle. Related to this, is the audit observation that a total of 108 clamping tickets issued during the period January to August 2016, were not paid although the vehicles were released,” reads the report.
On the issue relating to the manipulation of the database to fraudulently remove offenders, the audit fingered Nodumo Bhebhe, Gift Sibanda and Wonder Hlabangana noting that the three could access the database directly and manipulate stored data without authorisation.
“The section runs on a Microsoft access database which is a standalone system. Tickets issued to motorists are manually captured at the end of the day by the senior clerical assistant. Payments are done at revenue hall and thereafter, receipts are captured manually into the traffic unit database.
Weaknesses noted are that the system allows direct access and as a result information on outstanding tickets can be deleted or manipulated,” reads the report.
The audit as part of its recommendations noted that there was a need for the local authority to retender the parking management system as this would increase council’s revenue base and minimise the risk of revenue leakages.
“With a traffic management system in place, the hurdles of traffic enforcement and revenue collection would be ceded to the contractor. This is a risk management strategy worth pursuing and operationalising.
“Supervisory controls are at subliminal level, and as such a culture of dishonesty and corruption is breeding as evidenced by the use of consumer accounts receipts to clear outstanding traffic fines,” reads the report.
Last month it was revealed that the local authority had for the first six months of the year issued traffic tickets worth over $2 million to motorists in the city. The city has 720 pre-paid parking bays.