As authorities dither to act on those behind the theft of road traffic security papers and production of fake vehicle documents, the practice continues with just one catch—tightening of security around the paper for road traffic documents.
Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS) regional manager for the South Madalitso Kuyera said earlier in the week that the agency has introduced changes that have made the paper’s pilferage harder.
But the tighter security has only succeeded in making the paper more expensive.
Through an undercover operation, Weekend Nation went back to the black market, hardly two months after we obtained a Certificate of Fitness (CoF) for a car which nobody inspected.
Using the same company car we used earlier, we also tested if the motor vehicle registration certificate, commonly known as Blue Book, can easily change hands on the black market.
As was the case in June, we went to the middlemen, better known as dobadobas, who hang around DRTSS premises at Ginnery Corner in Blantyre.
What we established is that the value of the security paper has now gone up by 275 percent.
The price hike in the security paper on the black market—from K4 000 in June when we bought it for our earlier story to K15 000 for this article—is due to tighter security around the paper, according to the parallel market players.
When the K15 000 was paid, a security paper was obtained on which vehicle registration certificate details were printed, this time around at a rundown building within Ginnery Corner.
Last time, the printing of the CoF was done at a non-descript office in the commercial city’s central business district.
Our investigations show that there are more similar parallel printing sites in Mbayani and Ndirande in Blantyre.
In the latest follow-up under cover project, Weekend Nation managed to obtain a fake change of ownership for a Nation Publications Limited (NPL) vehicle, Toyota Corolla registration BT 3599.
The vehicle has ownership number 20151004040771 and its Blue Book is printed on security paper number MW 2015: 0563684B.
The document obtained from the parallel market has Emmanuel Eugenio as the new owner under number 20150704010926. The new Blue Book is printed on security paper number MW 2016: 0937852B.
In the earlier operation, security papers were going at K4 000 or K13 000, K24 000 when cross-border permit details were printed and K20 000 when CoF details were printed.
Unlike in the past, we have found that there has been a change of procedures now as the middlemen (dobadoba) have been given a new role of identifying customers, but would not be allowed to keep the security papers.
Under the new procedures, the dobadoba, after finding a customer, will then inform an inside officer who will then handover the papers to the ‘client’.
One of the dobadobas said unlike in the past, the papers are only being released on demand.
“Only one officer keeps these papers and releases them when a customer has been found and money paid. They have tightened up the security. But if you have cash I get the papers for you,” the dobadoba said.
He said because of tight security in Blantyre, he has now penetrated the Zomba DRTSS, where he says security is still loose, adding: “Last week, I received 75 papers which were sold out in two days.”
If that is true, at K15 000 per paper, it means in two days the dobadoba made over K 1.1 million for the syndicate.
Weekend Nation, went through the process for the second time in less than 60 days and managed to produce a vehicle ownership certificate after paying K15 000 to a dobadoba.
We then paid an additional K12 000 to print the paper at Ginnery Corner, which was higher than the K9 000 we paid to print a CoF in June. Weekend Nation received the security paper within three hours of paying the money to the dobadoba. In the past, the transaction was in real time.
The paper was then taken to a spot around Ginnery Corner, where a vehicle registration certificate was printed. In the small office, about 13 customers were served at the time Weekend Nation undercover crew was in the room.
We had to wait up to around 9pm to access the printed papers because of the long queues. The process of printing the vehicle registration certificate lasted about 15 minutes.
In an interview, Kuyera—after seeing the two papers—said while the papers were genuine, the security paper batch starting with number 09 (MW 2016: 0937852B) were not allocated to the Blantyre office.
“Our series batches are those starting with 06. We did not receive the security paper starting with 09,” said Kuyera.
He said since the first story was published in July this year, the Blantyre office has made a number of drastic changes and office reshuffles, limiting the people accessing the security paper.
“We cannot rule out some bad apples. It is difficult to stop people when they are hell bent at stealing, but we are trying our best. As for Blantyre, we have improved the system,” he said.
But Institute for Policy Interaction executive director Rafiq Hajat said the system at DRTSS is fuelling the fraudulent activities.
Coupled with the absence of well trained staff, clear and transparent system, Hajat said computerisation on its own was not the answer to challenges at the directorate.
He also observed that police’s failure to act swiftly on the fraud following the story Weekend Nation carried in July 2017, would force people to conclude that they are also involved.
Asked what action DRTSS has taken to protect the security papers, the agency’s spokesperson Angellina Makwecha said the case was still under investigation. National police spokesperson James Kadadzera said police was not aware of the racket. Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) spokesperson Egrita Ndala said the bureau was reviewing the information to see what action can be taken on the matter.
In a separate interview, Minister of Transport Jappie Mhango said government has taken action since the exposure of the malpractice, only that sometimes it takes time to root out a problem. n