Suspension of MOT tests due to faults in vehicle lifts caused “substantial” losses of income and it is surprising a replacement plan was not already in place, the audit office said.
New equipment was purchased after cracks were discovered in 52 out of 55 of the existing machines led to large numbers of roadworthiness checks being cancelled.
Overall, the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) made a loss of £2.1 million during the 2019-20 year, compared with a surplus of £5.5 million in the previous year.
Comptroller and auditor general Kieran Donnelly said: “The suspension of MOT tests due to the faults in the lifts caused significant disruption to the public and substantial loss of income for the DVA.
“I am aware that similar and unforeseen problems with the same make and model of lift were experienced in other countries.
“I am, nonetheless, surprised that the DVA had not projected the end life of the lifts and did not have a replacement plan in place.”
He said substantial reserves built up by the DVA over the years allowed it to finance replacement equipment.
However, he added: “It is important that lessons must be learned from this and I will continue to closely monitor the DVA’s implementation of its action plan.”
After receiving independent advice, the DVA replaced 52 lifts, at a cost of £1.8 million.
This formed part of an action plan devised to address issues identified by two reviews.
All replacement lifts have now been installed.
Mr Donnelly’s report notes that the suspension of MOT tests resulted in lost revenue of £2.95 million for the period from January to March 2020.
The DVA also incurred costs of around £980,000, including £702,368 in compensation for cancelled tests and other expenses associated with issuing temporary exemption certificates.
As the DVA is primarily funded through fees collected for services to the public, Covid-19 has had a major impact on its current financial position, the auditor said.
He added: “Whilst services have been resumed, it is unlikely that there will be a full resumption of all services in the 2020-21 year as a result of continued restrictions.”