QUESTIONS are being raised about the consultation process surrounding Gauteng’s new licence plate system, with major industry players saying they have not been approached by the government.

This is despite assurances by transport MEC Ignatius Jacobs at a recent transport portfolio committee meeting that all key stakeholders and users had been consulted.

With less than six months remaining before the new system is to be implemented, the Democratic Alliance (DA) is talking about calling for the system to be put on hold until Jacobs’ department has answered questions on the project.

The MEC has found himself embroiled in one controversy after another.

The first was the R23bn Gautrain project. Then came the idea to introduce tolls on roads around Johannesburg. More recently, the cabinet put the R12bn Johannesburg- Soweto monorail on hold because the province’s transport department, MEC Paul Mashatile’s finance department and the Gauteng Economic Development Agency failed to follow proper procedure.

James Swart, the DA’s Gauteng transport spokesman, said yesterday the party wanted all players to be consulted to ensure that no monopoly was created and that the project did not become too costly.

“Transport MEC Ignatius Jacobs has dodged key questions about his new licence plate system in Gauteng,” said Swart.

“In questioning by the legislature’s transport portfolio committee, MEC Ignatius Jacobs has failed to give clear answers on a number of key issues.

“Despite claiming adequate consultation, he has not said exactly to whom he talked, nor explained why major industry players have been left out of the consultations.”

Department spokesman Alfred Nhlapo said yesterday the department had had six months to consult, and it was confident everyone had been approached when the process was finalised.

“We have started with the manufacturers because they are key to the process,” he said.

“The reason is that at the end of the process we will be able to trace back each licence plate to the manufacturer and the distributor.”

Swart said some key suppliers and manufacturers had said they had not yet been approached for their inputs, and were concerned they would not be given an equal opportunity to contribute.

Among them is one of the biggest local providers of licence plate reflective material, 3M. The company said last Thursday it had not been consulted by Jacobs’ department nor asked to tender.

“The MEC has not assured the transport committee that the new system will not give a production monopoly to a single or small group of firms,” said Swart.

“Before the introduction of credit card-type driver’s licences the public were assured the new system would take illegal drivers off the road. So far no tangible benefit has been seen apart from a few well connected people making an awful lot of money every five years at the expense of motorists.”

At his budget speech presentation in June, Jacobs said the new number plates were part of a provincial crime-reduction strategy to prevent the unauthorised manufacture of plates that did not comply with national standards and to prevent vehicle cloning and the fraudulent issuing of vehicle fitness licences, among other things.

The new numbering process would also present more options for the province, which is running out of number combinations.