Mallon visits MOT staff and announces review

INFRASTRUCTURE Minister Nichola Mallon was in the DVA’s Boucher Road test centre in Belfast this afternoon to meet staff and centre managers regarding the ongoing disruption.

Speaking from the test centre, Minister Mallon said: “I have just been in speaking with staff here at the Boucher Road DVA centre. Staff are working tirelessly on the frontline to process priority customers and to communicate with the public.

“I have reassured staff and customers I have met, that the absolute priority is the health and safety of all.

“While I share the huge frustration and concern this has caused, I want to be clear, there will be absolutely no risks taken on my watch.

“I have a duty to protect staff and customers and therefore, until I am satisfied, a suspended service remains in place for MOT testing for cars and light vehicles. Anyone scheduled for a car or light vehicle MOT should not attend.

“However, I have acted decisively to minimise disruption. All customers except taxis and those with four year old cars will be automatically issued an MOT exemption certificate which they can use to tax their vehicle and thereby continue to drive.

“The exemption will be recorded in the DVA system and a hard copy will arrive by post in the coming days. I am also pleased to have received reassurance from the Association of British Insurers that no policy holders will be penalised for something that is entirely out of their control. Drivers are still advised to contact their individual insurers.

“The DVA is continuing to work to urgently contact all owners of taxis and four year old cars to book them for MOT tests. Priority is being given to those with MOTs that have expired or expire today, so motorists can tax and drive their vehicles.

“Testing on heavy goods vehicles and buses will continue and the heavy duty lanes will also be used to prioritise taxis and four year old car customers. I have instructed officials to ensure extended opening hours are in place in order to minimise disruption to customers.”

The Minister continued: “While this has been a stressful situation for many, I have acted as soon as I was aware, to instruct officials to take action to protect and communicate with the public.

“I want to reassure the public that, while I have inherited this mess, as I am only two weeks in the job, I will not be leaving customers in this situation again. That is why I have instructed my Permanent Secretary to commission two separate reviews, which I will oversee.

“The first is an investigation of the timeline and events that led up to the situation that arose last night. I need greater assurance than I have at present about the maintenance and testing regime in operation within DVA and about the way in which initial concerns about the lifting equipment were followed up and addressed.

“I want to know the precise timeline and to understand who knew what and when and all actions taken. This review will be carried out independently by professional auditors managed from outside the Department.

“The second review will be carried out by an external expert which we are currently in the process of appointing and will provide me with independent advice on the steps that need to be taken to return our MOT centres urgently to a position where a full testing service can be provided.

“It is not acceptable to me that we are in a position where the DVA cannot guarantee a safe operating environment. It is equally unacceptable to me to have a lengthy period where vehicles are not undergoing the tests needed to ensure they are roadworthy and to keep all of us safe on the roads.

“I am closely monitoring this situation and I will be upfront and honest with the public. That’s why I have asked that communications issue regularly to the public, staff and Executive colleagues.

“Today, efforts have been put in place to deal with the imminent challenges facing customers, but that’s not enough. I have instructed officials today to present urgently to me further options to put in place a full business recovery plan to get this service back into full operation.

“I am determined to get a safe, sustainable and trusted service up and running as soon as and as safely as possible – and I commit to keeping the public updated.”

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