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Shane Ross has been telling people they don't need a PSC to get a theory test. But they do

While the RSA has committed to removing the need to have a PSC in order to get a test, the requirement remains in place.

psc The Public Services Card

THE MINISTER FOR Transport Shane Ross was, until recently, advising the public that they didn’t need a Public Services Card (PSC) in order to get a driver theory test.

But that isn’t the case.

The PSC remains a prerequisite for applying for a test (the precursor to gaining a provisional licence). While the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has now admitted, as of 21 May, that the requirement is soon to be done away with, it remains in place.

On 20 April, Ross corresponded with a citizen regarding the PSC’s status with regard to RSA services.

While stating that the card could be used in order to obtain either a learner permit or a driving licence, he added definitively: “The application process for a driver theory test does not require a person to have a PSC.”

Three weeks later, in mid May after the citizen had pointed out that this statement was incorrect, a Department of Transport official queried of a colleague in the RSA:

Could you ask someone to look at this please – our understanding is that a passport is acceptable as ID for the DTT (theory test).

This misunderstanding from the parent department (as revealed in documents obtained under Freedom of Information) for the driver licensing programme regarding the test, the first significant expansion of the PSC project in June 2017, suggests a disconnect of communication and understanding between the Department of Transport and that project as a whole.

Illegal

Indeed, at a meeting between RSA personnel and others from affected departments and the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) in late April, it is stressed that only one representative from the Department of Transport was in attendance.

The focus on the theory test resulted from Minister Ross pulling the project whose goal was making the PSC mandatory when applying for all driving licences, on foot of legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General, received in early March.

Given it was deemed illegal to make the card mandatory to obtain a driving licence, the spotlight naturally turned to the issue of the theory test, for which it had been a mandatory requirement for nearly a year.

0145 Independence Alliance_90526146 Minister for Transport Shane Ross Source: RollingNews.ie

In mid-April, the RSA stated that a timeframe of eight weeks (up to mid June) was envisaged in order to action pulling the PSC as a mandatory requirement to obtain a test, a process that would involve a deal of procedural work on the part of Prometric, the company contracted to run the process for the RSA.

That has yet to materialise. A query to the RSA on the subject had not engendered a reply at the time of writing.

Increase in costs

Around 10 May, some discussion is had between RSA officials as to the fact that removing the PSC requirement could lead to an increase in the cost of theory tests (currently €45 for a B, or regular car, licence).

On 25 April, the fact that reversing the mandatory theory test project, only completed the previous year, would constitute a ‘significant’ project was raised by a director at the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS), one likely to “consume resources and cost”.

How much money it will cost in the final analysis is not yet known – the RSA had not replied to a query on that subject prior to publication. However, it is stressed that ‘some costs are inevitable’.

Previously a figure of €2 million was suggested by RSA Chief Executive Moyagh Murdock as being the total cost of the aborted driver licence/PSC project, although the authority has since claimed that the majority of that figure, €1.7 million, involved the creation of an online, PSC-dependent portal for the renewal of licences.

Just 3% of currently-licensed drivers possess a ‘verified’ PSC – one in which the owner’s address and identity has been further verified online via MyGovID – the card’s online alter ego. In order to renew a licence at present, a person’s PSC must have been so verified.

Alternative

In the released documents, the RSA confirms that “indeed we are likely to have to build an alternative to MyGovID for non PSC holders”, presumably because so few people have verified their card.

Since the expansion of the card was first announced in May 2017, it has been the subject of persistent criticism from privacy professionals and advocates as to its fundamental legality, amongst other concerns.

However, the controversy surrounding the RSA’s involvement with the card expansion doesn’t appeared to have dimmed government’s enthusiasm for the project.

On 23 April, not long after the card had been pulled as a requirement for getting a driving licence, the same NDLS director mentioned above said he believes that “a mandatory PSC would work in the driver licensing service and would actually confer benefits on customers”.

The card has also been mooted in recent times as a prerequisite in future for voting in elections and referendums, while the Department of Foreign Affairs previously confirmed to TheJournal.ie that a deadline of end 2018 was in place for making the PSC a mandatory requirement for all citizens seeking to obtain a passport.

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