CCC's damning report of WA driving assessor
A CORRUPTION and Crime Commission investigation has uncovered a spate of systematic licensing falsifications for Heavy Vehicle accreditation.
The CCC report details the behaviour at a former Neerabup truck driving school that resulted in hundreds of drivers being licensed without having their competence adequately assessed, ultimately leading to the cancellation of dozens of heavy vehicle licences earlier this year.
The Report on Corruption in Respect of Truck Driving Licence Applications follows a co-operative investigation by the Western Australian CCC and Department of Transport into the licensing activity at Mines West Driving School.
The business, owned by Previn Narayanan, was contracted by the department in July 2015 to conduct Practical Driving Assessments for classes of heavy vehicles.
The investigation revealed that Mines West identified a niche in the Western Australia licensing market and "openly targeted" a specific ethnic group - Indian immigrants, particularly those from the Punjab - and employed Punjabi-speaking staff to attract clients.
"From the students' perspective, the outcome was a markedly less rigorous assessment process," the CCC report stated.
"This made Mines West a popular truck driving school. Mines West also offered the convenience of a truck training and PDA package for a set price."
The CCC formed an opinion of serious misconduct in relation to MrNarayanan's behaviour, in that he failed to conduct assessments.
Mr Narayanan was the only approved assessor under the agreement with the Department of Transport at the time.
The licensing shortcuts detailed in the report included carrying out assessments outside designated routes, falsifying entries and frequently avoiding theory tests.
Students were also assessed two at a time and taken on shorter routes.
Mr Narayanan's "dishonesty did not end there", the report added.
"Some students travelled from elsewhere in Australia to receive instruction, avoiding stricter controls in their home state."
Mr Narayanan was said to have counselled some students to change addresses on bank statements and other details to make it appear they resided in WA - a requirement for a learner's permit.
"After obtaining a licence from DoT, they returned home and transferred their new WA licence to a home state equivalent."
Corruption and Crime Commissioner John McKechnie QC said driving a vehicle of any sort on a public road was a serious responsibility.
"A licence is an assessment of competence. When students are not properly assessed, there is an obvious danger that incompetent drivers are on the road," he said.
"When such a driver is in charge of a heavy rigid or multiple combination vehicle, the danger is magnified."
As part of the investigation, the department conducted a review of licences obtained by people who participated in a PDA at Mines West, resulting in 678 licence holders having their licences suspended in part or in full.
New driving assessments were conducted for 370 of the suspended licence holders and, disturbingly, 201 applicants (54 per cent) failed their reassessment.
Curiously, the report states that most applicants under review did not even try to obtain a truck driver's licence - 80% sought only a C-class licence to drive a car.
Many had used Mines West as a way to avoid the scrutiny required to obtain the licence.
The CCC report stated MrNarayanan's explanation was that he had no time to carry out PDAs due to the organic growth of the business.
"In order to feed demand, he trusted his instructors to conduct assessments," the report stated.
"The commission does not accept that the success of Mines West took MrNarayanan by surprise."
This is the CCC WA's third report relating to the activities of vehicle or driver's licence assessors in the past two years.
As part of the report, the commission recommended the Minister for Transport consider a number of amendments to the road traffic legislation.
These included invalidating a licence issued under a foreign law three months after the holder first arrives in Western Australia.
It is estimated the direct loss to the Department as a consequence of the matter sits at $194,220.