PEOPLE were more likely to pass their driving test in centres operated by contract staff, as opposed to centres operated by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), according to a report by the public funds watchdog.
The report, published yesterday by the comptroller and auditor general John Buckley, found that pass levels ranged between 51% and 77% in centres operated by outside contractors, SGS, who had been hired to help tackle a backlog of test applications.
That pass rate contrasts with that in RSA-operated centres, where it ranged from 39% to 60%, and the C&AG said in addition to the disparity in pass rates, the required level of supervision of RSA testers had also not been achieved in recent years.
The findings, which are based on the monitoring of average pass rates in 2008, prompted the C&AG to raise concerns over the consistency of testing.
Responsibility for driver testing switched from the Department of Transport to the RSA in September 2006, but in a bid to tackle growing waiting times an external contractor was drafted in between 2006 and 2009 to assist with the service provided by directly employed testers. The outsourcing stopped in April last year, having cost over €24.4m.
In the report, the C&AG admits that the testing system has almost succeeded in reducing waiting times to 10 weeks and that by the end of 2008 the longest anyone had to wait was 11 weeks.
In the case of more than 2,000 contract tests supervised between October 2007 and the end of 2008 the RSA supervisor and the contract tester disagreed on the test result in 7% of cases. According to the report: “The national average pass rate for drivers tested by RSA testers was 49% compared with a level of 62% for contract testers.
“There was considerable variation in pass rates at test centres. Average pass rates by centre varied from 39% to 60% in relation to RSA test centres and from 51% to 77% for contractor centres.”
The C&AG states it is important the RSA validates the pass rate at centres but that it has not done so.
The report also shows considerable variation between results determined by testers, ranging from average pass rates of 23% to 69% conducted by RSA testers, and from 37% to 83% for contract tests, while 33 of the 50 RSA test centres had testers whose pass rate varied by more than 10% from the average pass rate at the centre.
This compared with 40 of the 50 contractor’s test centres.
“Overall, this pattern of results has implications for the consistency of the tests conducted by the RSA,” the report states.
The RSA said it was satisfied with the monitoring arrangements for the contract and that there was “no significant issues” with the service provided.
The report concludes: “Future contracts for outsourced services should be more specific in relation to how the quality of service will be assessed.”
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