Cape taxi operators cry foul, allege bribery over Blue, Red Dot programmes
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Cape Town - Taxi operators have alleged bribery and the mismanagement of funds connected to the Department of Transport and Public Works’ (DTPW) Red and Blue Dot taxi initiatives that aims to incentivise good driver behaviour and rid it of criminal acts.
They have alleged the department only gave the opportunity to certain executive members of SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) to participate in the schemes.
Some of the taxi associations have recently written to the department and legislature, voicing their concerns on the procurement processes followed when the tender was awarded.
Blue Dot Taxi is a pilot project which went live on May 15 to test an innovative approach to minibus taxi improvement.
DTPW spokesperson, Jandré Bakker, said the pilot included the participation of about 600 operators and up to 1 300 vehicles, distributed across all regions of the province, in a new incentive programme which rewarded improved driving behaviour and service quality, while encouraging reduced instances of illegal operations and violent conflict.
Bakker said given that the project was being piloted with a limited budget, it was only possible to include up to 1 300 vehicles.
He said the Red Dot Taxi provided transport services in support of the Western Cape Government’s ongoing fight against Covid-19.
Paarl Taxi Association (PTA) vice-chairperson Muneeb Abrahams said the tender must be investigated on how other candidates were successfully awarded, stating that none of them were aware of the project until they noticed that it had already been awarded.
"We as members of PTA feel that this process has been done unlawfully and with much lack of transparency and request that all communication and information regarding this process is handed over to us in order to investigate the adjudication of the nominated members," said Abrahams.
Another operator, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation, accused the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) of making decisions on behalf of industry without any consultation processes, and requested the department to investigate equal opportunities for all operators on rotational policy.
In a letter seen by the Cape Argus, DTPW transport operations chief director Deidré Ribbonaar, said the department could not in terms of the contract dictate how the service provider’s internal operations were conducted, and cannot require rotation of vehicles.
Ribbonaar said in addition, it would not be cost-effective for the department to rotate the vehicle fleet due to the additional expenses that would be incurred by decommissioning existing vehicles and then fitting out a new fleet.
“Nonetheless, the department is committed to promoting fairness and ethical operations, and notes with concern the fairness issues that you have raised in relation to Red Dot.
“As such, the department will forward these concerns to the service provider, Umanyano Travel Services (UTS), and will enter into deliberations with UTS on the matter,” said Ribbonaar.
Santaco provincial spokesperson Gershon Geyer said the Red Dot and Blue Dot programmes were divided equally to the eight regions.
“If members have any queries about this they can address it at the proper Santaco structures,” said Geyer.
Good party secretary-general Brett Herron said he has been concerned about the structure of those programmes.
Herron said the programmes were implemented without any publication of a strategy or policy and the foundation and fundamentals were absent.
“I have raised these concerns in the portfolio committee meetings.
“I have engaged with taxi operators who have expressed unhappiness about being excluded as well as some who were green lighted to be included, invested in new vehicles, only to be excluded,” said Herron.
He said he was concerned about its legality, feasibility and sustainability.
ANC provincial spokesperson on transport, Lulama Mvimbi, said those projects were launched with much fanfare by the provincial government.
“We accepted it in principle, on the basis that it would provide some assistance to the taxi industry, and we always knew that the provincial government used these services to deflect the attention of the taxi industry from the much needed subsidisation,” said Mvimbi.