Last year, cracks were discovered in 52 out of 55 lifts leading to significant disruption at vehicle test centres.
Faults were found at the Derry test centre in Newbuildings.
Stormont’s Public Accounts Committee found the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) had not correctly projected the lifespan of the lifts.
The DVA should have been more rigorous with a lift replacement plan, it said.
“We find it ironic that an organisation in the business of testing the road-worthiness of vehicles was not able to ensure that its own equipment was being properly maintained,” said committee chairman William Humphrey.
The report, published on Thursday, examined the suspension of vehicle testing services due to safety issues.
It followed two reviews commissioned by the minister for infrastructure that were carried out by independent engineers and the Northern Ireland Civil Service’s Internal Audit and Fraud Investigation Services.
Mr Humphrey said it was not the first time that problems had arisen within the DVA, with “long MoT waiting times” during 2019.
He pointed out that the loss of equipment meant the DVA lost about £2.95m worth of income in the 2019-20 year.
“At the same time, DVA incurred costs of £980,000, primarily due to compensation for cancelled tests and then was required to spend £1.8m to replace 52 out of 55 scissor lifts,” he said.
Last February, it was reported that centres were operating at about half the normal capacity due to the safety concerns.
About 1,500 vehicles were usually tested every day across Northern Ireland and about the same number would have been cancelled.
At the time, an external review suggested an inadequate inspection regime and metal fatigue led to the situation with the scissor lifts, which are used to inspect the underside of vehicles.
The report also found that the DVA was “overly reliant” on a contractor and its maintenance schedule, and relied “too heavily” on a positive equipment survey in 2018, even though the scissor lifts were carrying out significantly more procedures than originally designed.While welcoming the fact a plan to address failings had been put in place after the independent review and audit, Mr Humphrey said the DVA needed to “renew and strengthen its focus on customer service”.
“We are keen to see DVA’s improvements through quarterly progress reports and look forward to the agency providing the service that people in Northern Ireland deserve,” he said.
The committee recommended:
An estimated life-span of crucial equipment must be determined and a phased replacement programme put in place for all equipment to minimise disruption
That the DVA should strengthen its oversight of the contract with Maha, particularly regarding the maintenance regime
The DVA should ensure future relationships with new suppliers are underpinned by contracts that include strong performance and penalty clauses
That the Department for Infrastructure should commission a review of the arrangements for the DVA and assess its effectiveness, including customer service, as it has been operating as a full trading fund for five years.Tags: