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Monday 1 May 2017

Car test centre fires eight staff after probe into bribery claims

Treacy Hogan Environment Correspondent

EIGHT National Car Test employees who were suspended following bribery allegations have been sacked.

The dismissals took place after an internal investigation into the claims that bribes were paid by drivers to have defective cars passed.

Anti-fraud measures have now been installed at all NCT centres around the country.

RTE television's 'Prime Time Investigates' revealed in May that two taxis, deemed dangerous and unfit by experts and initially failed by the NCT, were passed after a payment of €100 per car.

Applus, the company that runs the NCT, immediately launched an inquiry into the revelations.

Gardai were also asked to investigate the matter by Noel Brett, chief executive of the Road Safety Authority (RSA), which oversees the NCT.

In response to questions by the Irish Independent, the RSA issued a statement in which it said the " quality and integrity controls" of the car test operator had been called into question.

"Immediately arising from the specific cases in the 'Prime Time' programme, the RSA can confirm that seven staff were suspended, resulting in three members of staff being dismissed.

"Since then, investigations have resulted in the dismissal of five additional members of staff."

Cameras

Although the subject of an ongoing garda investigation, with a number of issues still unproved, the RSA said it had worked closely with the NCT "to identify the potential causes of specific incidents reported in the programme and to implement actions to prevent or detect occurrences of similar situations arising in the future".

According to the statement, a robust anti-fraud management plan has also been put in place.

These measures include the installation of CCTV security cameras on gantries overhanging all lanes where cars are tested.

Other anti-fraud steps include the erection of signs advising people not to leave valuables in their cars -- it has been suggested in the past that some motorists may have left sums of money in their ashtray as a temptation.

The RSA said steps had been taken " to identify the individuals and companies who would seek to obtain roadworthiness certificates for vehicles through illegal means".

New identity checks have also been put in place, including the requirement to bring a driving licence.

The RSA awarded the 10-year contract for the provision of the car test to Applus in January last year.

Following the 'Prime Time' broadcast, Applus said it would vigorously investigate the matter until all issues raised by the programme in relation to vehicle inspections, had been fully addressed.

A 'whistleblower ' confidential telephone line and email system, to which both staff and members of the public have access, has been set up.

The number is 1890928580 or email integrity@ncts.ie.

Irish Independent

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