Almost two-thirds of those who applied for driving licences failed their tests, Transport Minister Jeff Radebe has said.

He also warned that driving schools would be placed under greater scrutiny to ensure that they comply with set standards.

Radebe said that between July 2005 and last month, almost a million of the 1,5-million prospective drivers who applied for licences didn’t make it.

“The pass rate of 39% can be attributed to many factors. Mostly it comes down to the fact that applicants are not adequately prepared for the test.

“Applicants are not compelled to make use of a driving school, and some driving schools may not adequately prepare applicants,” he added.

Radebe was responding to a written parliamentary question by Democratic Alliance MP Stuart Farrow.

Radebe said those taking the test in Gauteng fared the best, with a pass rate of 46,58%, while the Free State had the lowest pass rate of 31,23%.

The pass rate in the Eastern Cape was 33,03%, KwaZulu Natal 35,04%, Western Cape 35,13%, Limpopo 43,45%, Mpumalanga 43,30%, North West 35,99% and Northern Cape 33,86%.

Last year, the department was also asked to investigate the alleged low pass rate in Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage, and extensive information sessions were held, resulting in a vast improvement in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, the minister said.

Radebe said the inspection of driving licence testing centres was taken very seriously by the department and, by law, they had to be inspected at least once a year.

He said eight additional driving licence standards inspectors would be appointed, and they would hopefully also be able to conduct ad hoc audits of these centres.

In addition, the Transport Department’s investigations and forensics division was acting on all allegations made by the public.

It was also funding the investigations done by the Special Investigations Unit into the issuing of illegal driving licences.

Radebe said the department also planned to extend its Directorate: Standards Regulation, which would deal with the regulation of driving schools.

Yesterday, Farrow said the pass rate was very low and a “severe investigation” was needed to find out where the problems lie.