A driving test examiner has been caught on tape soliciting a cash bribe to give an aspiring motorist a passing grade.
In the recording, heard by Times of Malta, the examiner tells the nervous driver that he is out of practice and is not doing well.
However, he then tells him that in exchange for “a present” he is willing to “arrange the papers”.
“Listen to me. Don’t talk to your instructor, OK? I help you,” the examiner says.
The motorist, a foreign national taking his first driving test, is keen to get on the road and snaps at the opportunity to pay the examiner for a driver’s licence.
Before any money is exchanged however, the examiner wants to be sure he will not get caught.
“You don’t talk. Not with friends, not with your instructor, nobody. I and you only,” the examiner says, before rattling off directions.
“Turning right, second exit,” the recording plays.
Again, the examiner, eager to ensure the sordid affair remains their little secret, tells the driver to keep quiet.
“I swear on Jesus Christ [I won’t tell anyone],” the motorist exclaims.
At a point, the examiner tells the driver that he had failed to apply the brakes on time when approaching a pedestrian crossing, a move that should automatically disqualify him from being licensed.
“Don’t talk, OK? I arrange the test,” the examiner repeatedly tells him.
The recording gets hazy when the exact sum to be handed over is discussed, however, a muffled “€50” can be heard at one point.
“Congratulations,” the examiner tells him, before the two get out of the car.
The recording, taken in 2020, was flagged to Transport Malta by Times of Malta earlier this week.
A spokesperson for the authority said Transport Malta had no knowledge of the incident and had flagged the matter to the police.
Sources who took the recording, however, said rumours and whispers about the instructor had long been swirling.
They said the recording was taken only after several applicants for driving tests had flagged how the examiner in question had solicited a bribe from them.
Meanwhile, Transport Malta said it would liaise with the police before deciding on a way forward.
While the authority has not inspected the recording, Times of Malta is liaising with the police.
Sources at the authority said the examiner in question is particularly close to the head of the licensing and testing unit, describing him as his “right-hand man”.
On Friday, Times of Malta reported how the official who heads that department had been taken in for police questioning over claims he too had pocketed a few payments, this time from applicants for the theory section of the driving test.
The official has been told by the authority not to show up for work pending the conclusion of the police investigation and documents from his office have been seized.
A subordinate of the official is understood to be cooperating with the police and has confirmed that on at least three occasions, receipts were not issued for payments linked to driving theory tests.
Transport Malta said it had recently reviewed its internal procedures to try to weed out future pilfering of payments.
Cameras, microphones in cars
Cameras and microphones will soon be installed in Transport Malta cars in a bid to stop future bribery cases.
A spokesperson for Transport Malta told Times of Malta that the equipment will take street footage to be used in the case an applicant disagrees with an examiner’s assessment of their test.
The equipment will also record what happens in the car to weed out abuse.
Sources said the move comes after the authority has received repeated complaints of examiners hinting or outright soliciting a bribe.
In 2006, Transport Malta was rocked by a police investigation into TM examiners. After lengthy legal wrangles, several examiners were charged in court.
Even the whistle-blower in that case had himself been accused by the people he exposed.
He was eventually cleared of bribery in 2014.
The latest case in court came in 2015 when a driving examiner who accepted €100 bribes owned up to the crime.
He was handed a suspended sentence and a 10-year general interdiction [ban from government work] after signing a plea bargain with the attorney general.