Belfast Telegraph

MOT test 'pass for cash' claims to be probed by Northern Ireland Civil Service chief

By Noel McAdam

The head of Northern Ireland's Civil Service has pledged a full investigation into allegations of fraud at MoT centres, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Sir Malcolm McKibbin has personally written to a businessman who claimed Driver and Vehicle Agency staff were taking bribes from vehicle owners to pass their MoT tests.

One man has already been arrested and released on police bail.

In his letter, the Civil Service chief makes clear action has already been taken to tell MoT staff of their responsibilities.

The matter came to light after former Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard received a letter from a businessman detailing the claims, which was then passed on to departmental officials.

But Stormont collapsed before the investigation could progress. And now, as there is no minister in place to sanction any recommendation for action, it must come from the Civil Service.

A statement from the Department for Infrastructure said it was "aware of this correspondence and has responded. The issues raised are being dealt with in line with existing procedures".

The businessman who first made the allegations then wrote to Sir Malcolm, who has been playing a leading role in the negotiations to restore devolution since the Assembly election last month.

The Civil Service chief took the time to reply and said that "where necessary, decisive action will be taken".

"This will include, where necessary, the retraining of staff and action has already been taken to remind all staff of their responsibilities in respect of their conduct," Sir Malcolm wrote.

The businessman, who puts around 250 vehicles through the MoT annually, has made the allegation that vehicles can be given certificates without full tests in return for cash.

The Co Antrim businessman, who has asked to remain anonymous, dubbed the alleged practice 'pass for cash' and claimed the standard fee for a faked pass in the Belfast area is £150.

"I believe public safety is at risk, and the public have the right to know, this is a problem which is occurring across the entire testing agency," he said.

In a series of letters and emails seen by the Belfast Telegraph, it is alleged it is possible for vehicles to be passed even if they have excessive rot, poor brakes and problems with lights.

In one, former Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard was asked: "How many of the 5-6,000 collisions on our roads in the last few years were possibly down to a fault with unroadworthy vehicles?"

A PSNI statement said: "Detectives investigating allegations of fraud at DVA NI premises have arrested a 64-year-old man. He was arrested in the Ballymena area on March 29, on suspicion of fraud by abuse of position. He has been interviewed and subsequently released on police bail pending further inquiries."

A spokesperson for the Executive Office yesterday said: "It is normal practice for Sir Malcolm to respond to correspondence he receives."

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