Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General - Press release VFM examination report on The Driver Testing Service

Press Release

10 May 2000

Value for Money Report:

The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr John Purcell, has carried out a value for money examination of the driver testing service.

The Department of the Environment and Local Government is responsible for driver testing. Tests are carried out by over 100 Department-employed testers at 49 test centres located throughout the country. Almost 150,000 tests were carried out last year.

The Comptroller and Auditor General’s examination focused on how the Department ensures that driving tests are carried out to a common standard and how long applicants have to wait for a test to be provided. It also dealt with the costs of providing the test.

A report on the examination is being presented to Dáil ?reann today. The main findings of the examination are summarised below.

For further information about the report, please contact:

Jennifer O’Halloran at (01) 6031016

Main Findings

  • To ensure fairness to all driving test candidates, driving test procedures should result as far as possible in the same standard being applied in tests carried out at different times and places, and by different testers. The evidence suggests that a uniform standard of driving test is not being applied by the Department. For a significant proportion of candidates, the test result appears to be influenced by the location of the test and which tester is involved.
  • Pass rates tend to be considerably higher in test centres in the western half of the country, compared to pass rates in centres in the east. The same regional pattern in pass rates is evident from year to year. Within regions, some individual testers consistently have pass rates significantly different from the average of their colleagues. The Department should aim to eliminate such systematic differences.
  • Waiting times for driving tests are much longer than the targets set by the Department.
  • The number of applicants for driving tests each year increased from just over 100,000 in 1995 to around 150,000 in 1998, due mainly to economic growth and demographic factors. The Department was slow to increase the supply of driving tests, with the result that very long waiting lists for tests emerged. At the end of 1998, there were around 87,000 applicants on the waiting lists. On average, those being tested were waiting over 30 weeks for a test. Some applicants on the list had been waiting for over a year.
  • The Department recruited extra testers at the end of 1998 and in 1999, and so was able to increase significantly the number of tests carried out in 1999. The waiting time for tests has started to decrease, and the Department expects to be able to reduce the length of the waiting list significantly in 2000.
  • The Department is not achieving the target level of staff productivity and relies heavily on testing carried out on overtime. This suggests there is room for improvement in the supply of tests and for reducing the cost of test provision.
  • The unit cost of providing driving tests rose from ?31 in 1995 to ?37.60 in 1998. Since waiting times were also increasing quickly, the level of efficiency achieved by the Department in providing the service fell substantially in the period.
  • Greater economy and efficiency could be achieved in the operation of the service through a change in the existing arrangements for headquartering driver testers and for rotating them between test centres. This would reduce the cost of travel and subsistence payments significantly, increase the number of tests carried out and reduce waiting times in the centres with the longest waiting lists, particularly the Dublin test centres.
  • The Department has a policy of recovering the full cost of driver testing through charging fees for the service but at the moment, the fees charged cover only about 78% of the costs incurred. If the stated policy is to be implemented, the level of fees charged must be increased. However, any adjustment to fee levels should take into account the considerable scope for reducing costs through improved efficiency.

The contents of this page were last updated on 26/09/03