Northern Ireland Assembly
Committee Finds Equipment Failure at Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) Cost £3.9 Million
The Northern Ireland Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee recently (03 June 2021) published its fifth Report on Driver and Vehicle Agency 2019-20 which examined the suspension of vehicle testing services due to safety issues.
The Report follows 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.
The Committee found that the DVA had not correctly projected the lifespan of crucial equipment—the scissor lifts which are used to enable inspectors to look at the underside of vehicles—and did not have a phased replacement plan in place, something that led to a significant disruption in services when the lifts failed.
Chairman of the Committee, William Humphrey MBE MLA recently said:
“This is not the first time that we have seen problems arise in the DVA. We note that during 2019 there were long MOT waiting times, with some customers unable to get MOT appointments before their due dates.
“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.
“Moreover, the loss of equipment also meant that the DVA lost income to the value of £2.95 million for 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 £1.8 million to replace 52 out of 55 scissor lifts.”
The Report also found that the DVA was overly reliant on the contractor and the 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.
Chairperson Humphrey concluded:
“We believe that the DVA needs to renew and strengthen its focus on customer service. We welcome the fact that an action plan to address its failings has been put into place after a review by independent engineers and Internal Audit.
“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.”
Notes to Editors:
The full Report on Driver and Vehicle Agency 2019-20 can be found on the Assembly website.
The Committee’s recommendations from the Report are:
In the Committee’s view the DVA should have been much more rigorous in estimating a lift replacement schedule, informed by the usage of the lifts across the test centres.
The Committee recommends that an estimated life span of crucial equipment must be determined based on good quality management information and a phased replacement programme put in place for all equipment to minimise any potential disruption to future service delivery.
The Committee is concerned that the DVA was overly reliant on the contractor and the planned and preventative maintenance schedule. The Committee notes that in the aftermath of the lifts issue, some of the clauses in the contract, including that in relation to contractor performance, have now been reviewed and strengthened. However, there remain contract management issues and more needs to be done.
The Committee recommends that the DVA strengthens its oversight of the contract with MAHA particularly regarding the quality of the planned and preventative maintenance regime. Furthermore, the DVA should ensure that any future relationships with new suppliers are underpinned by contracts which include strong performance and penalty clauses.
Prior to 1 April 2016 the DVA’s operations were partly funded under a Trading Fund Order and partly funded by Assembly Supply. The Driver & Vehicle Agency Trading Fund Order (Northern Ireland) 2016 came into effect on 1 April 2016. This transferred all the DVA’s activities into the trading fund.
The Committee considers that as the DVA has now been operating as a full trading fund for five years, the Department for Infrastructure should commission a review of the arrangements for the DVA and assess its effectiveness including customer service.
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