A journalistic investigation by CABAR.asia reveals that the company responsible for the mandatory vehicle inspection does not actually conduct any inspection and simply collects money for a formal procedure.
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About half a million vehicles (cars, trucks and passenger vehicles) are officially registered in Tajikistan. All these vehicles are required to pass a technical inspection annually. The inspection of cars costs 250 somoni (about $22) and 350 somoni (about $31) for other vehicles. The estimated revenue from the vehicle inspections is over 132 million somoni, or more than $11.5 million per year.
The alleged monopolist in this market is “Rushdi Rohnavard” Company. During the investigation, we revealed that CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard is actually located at the same address as CJSC Faroz. We also found out that a number of former Faroz employees work at Rushdi Rohnavard now.
A citizen of the Republic of Tajikistan Shamsullo Sohibov owned the Closed Joint Stock Company (CJSC) “Faroz”. According to some local and foreign media, Sohibov is the son-in-law of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon. In April 2020, CJSC Faroz, after its 17-year activity in Tajikistan, announced its closure. Faroz was a diversified private company, which included a number of commercial firms. Their activities included the supply and sale of fuels and lubricants, the development of various deposits, pharmaceutical industry, mountain skiing, a network of driving schools, inspection stations in a number of cities and regional centres of Tajikistan and production of license plates for vehicles.
The CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard, according to the documents, was registered on May 10, 2019. During the investigation, we found out that now, CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard provides all the services in the field of automobile transport, which were previously provided by the CJSC Faroz. Rushdi Rohnavard carries out vehicle inspection across the republic, sells license plates with attractive numbers, and trains future drivers.
Revelations of the Driver and Surprise of the Traffic Police Officer
“Tico” is a car produced in Uzbekistan, which is in demand in Tajikistan due to lower costs for maintenance and replacement parts.
A Tico driver anonymously told CABAR.asia about a case when a traffic police officer stopped him in the Dushanbe centre and tried to fine him because the turn signal lights did not work. The driver told the traffic police officer that not only the turn signal lights did not work, but also the headlamps were out of order, the tires were worn out, and in general, his car was out of repair. In response, the traffic police officer said that he would impound the Tico. However, the driver replied that his car passed a vehicle inspection and presented a technical inspection record, where the State Automobile Inspectorate confirmed that the car was in “good technical condition”. Therefore, the traffic police officer must first speak with the person who inspected the car, and only after it, with the Tico owner. The traffic police officer had no choice but to return the driver’s license and wish the driver a safe trip.
Vehicle Inspection in Tajik Style
Before speaking about this issue, two terms should be clarified: technical diagnostics and technical inspection.
Two months ago, during the investigation, the author passed the diagnostics and technical inspection of his car and observed the work of the CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard technical inspection station (75 J. Rasulov Street, Dushanbe) for another 4 hours. According to the requirements indicated in the poster on the board at this vehicle inspection station, the following car parts must be checked during the inspection:
– wheels– engine and its structure – steering gear – other vehicle’s details – braking system – windows and window cleaning system, splash shields – headlamps, sidelights, etc.
In case if at least one of these vehicle parts is inoperative, the car should be repaired and only after repair, it can be returned back to the technical inspection station for repeated inspection. However, according to the investigator’s experiment and observations, the inspection station located at 75 J. Rasulov Street does not inspect the cars, but issues documents on passing the inspection without the vehicles’ presence.
We present a video shot during the investigation. It shows people with documents in their hands. In a conversation with us, one of them said that a document on passing a vehicle inspection could be received without bringing the car.
A poll on Facebook confirmed that this method of issuing diagnostic and technical inspections documents is common not only for the technical inspection station located at 75 J. Rasulov Street, Dushanbe. Similar cases take place at other stations in a number of cities and regions of the country.
CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard Does Not Answer Questions
Until the end of 2019, the CJSC Faroz carried out the vehicle inspection in Tajikistan. At the end of 2019, Faroz announced the closure of several of its companies, including those that were engaged in vehicle diagnostics and inspection.
The State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate did not tell us how many companies operate in the vehicle inspection market. Rushdi Rohnavard also did not provide information on its activities. However, drivers from Dushanbe, Sughd and Khatlon regions reported that their technical inspection records are sealed by CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard. According to the website of the Tax Committee of the Republic of Tajikistan, this organisation was registered with the tax authority on May 10, 2019; its taxpayer ID number is 040055515.
There is very little information about this company in open sources online and on media websites. Rushdi Rohnavard, despite its extensive activities, does not have a website to report on them. The local media websites mentioned this company in August 2020 for the first time. It was reported that in Sughd region in the north of the country, a driving school instructor at CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard was detained by the Agency for Combating Corruption for extorting a bribe to issue a driver’s license. Another report about this company was from Kulob city in the south of the country: Rushdi Rohnavard trains young people to drive free of charge before their conscription into the armed forces.
If you try to google “Rushdi Rohnavard”, among other results, you will find a link to the rakam.tj website (‘rakam’ is ‘number’ in Tajik – Ed.) on the first page of the search results. This website sells license plates with attractive numbers as well as other properties in auctions.
During this investigation, we attempted to find out the opinion of the CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard’s representatives. In particular, we tried to receive answers about how many vehicle inspection stations the company has, what profit it makes, when the company was created, etc. Dilorom Rakhimova, the former press secretary of CJSC Faroz, received the first journalistic request to Rushdie Rohnaward at the end of November 2020. Rakhimova introduced herself as the official representative of CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard.
The office of CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard is located at 10 J. Rasulov Street. At this address, the headquarters of CJSC Faroz was located previously. The director of Rushdi Rohnavard is Junaidullo Shirinov, who previously was the director of the company “Technical Inspection of Capital Vehicles” owned by CJSC Faroz.
About five days after receiving the request, Rushdi Rohnavard replied that the company would not provide answers, since the request did not specify a return address and thus, “violated media legislation”.
The investigator tried to send another request with a return address, but the security guards of Rushdi Rohnavard did not let him inside the building for three days in a row on the pretext that Rakhimova was not at her workplace.
On December 10, 2020, the author spoke on the phone with another Rushdi Rohnavard employee Z.G., who introduced herself as the deputy director of the company, and then clarified that she was an accountant at Rushdi Rohnavard. She said that her manager was infected with coronavirus and, moreover, “broke his leg”. Z.G. promised that after Shirinov was back at work, she would speak to him about the journalistic request, invite the journalist and answer all questions. However, a month after the first conversation, Z.G. no longer answered phone calls. Thus, employees of CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard, the successor of CJSC Faroz, refused to accept the request and to answer the journalist’s questions.
The State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Sees No Problems
The State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tajikistan stated in a written response that by the end of December 2019, about 500 thousand cars were registered in the country. According to the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate, there are 62 technical inspection stations in the country, 13 of which are mobile. At the same time, the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate did not answer with which company or companies they have signed contracts for vehicle inspection. (However, drivers from Sughd, Khatlon regions and Dushanbe city told that their inspection records are sealed by CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard).
The State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate claims that the private companies are inspecting the technical condition of vehicles. To conduct a vehicle inspection, private companies sign contracts with the Inspectorate. The Inspectorate, after completing the check of vehicle diagnostics and inspection (the check of specialists’ work), issues a special record. At the same time, traffic police officers are present at the vehicle inspection stations and observe the inspection process.
If we assume that out of 500 thousand vehicles in Tajikistan, 70 thousand (approximate number) are trucks and passenger vehicles that pay 350 somoni (about $31) for inspection, then the annual income from their inspection is 24 million 500 thousand somoni (more than $2.1 million). The remaining 430 thousand cars paying 250 somoni (about $22) pay companies that carry out vehicle inspection 107 million 500 thousand somoni (more than $9.5 million) annually. In total, the annual income from vehicle inspection of 500 thousand vehicles is more than 132 million somoni or more than $11.5 million. In other words, more than 360 thousand somoni ($32 thousand) per day. This amount is enough to buy a one-room apartment in Dushanbe every day.
Despite the legal requirements, CJSC Rushdi Rohnavard did not provide information about its activities. They also did not explain how the inspection records are issued in the cars’ absence and what kind of service costs 250/350 somoni in such case.
As a comparison, in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, vehicle inspection was cancelled in 2012. In Russia, new cars are not inspected for up to 3 years. After 3 years, vehicles pass technical inspection once every two years. However, the Russian authorities are developing stricter laws and penalties to prevent vehicle inspection records’ falsification and to ensure traffic safety.
Abdurakib Kadyrov, an expert on road transport, says that since most of the vehicles imported into Tajikistan are used, vehicle inspection should be taken seriously.
“Some of the imported cars from the developed countries, for example, from the Baltic States, South Korea and Japan, are damaged in the minor or major accidents. They are repaired and brought to Tajikistan. These cars are in such a condition that even their airbags do not deploy in accident,” expert Kadyrov said.
According to Kadyrov, one of the main reasons for the increase in the number of accidents is the cars’ technical condition. Most of the cars produced by Opel and Mercedes were damaged in the accidents previously; these are used cars. Given the age of the vehicle, they are not subject to inspection. The period set by the vehicle producer has expired. The vehicle market of Tajikistan is outdated,” Abdurakib Kadyrov said.
According to Kadyrov, the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs recorded the most accidents with Opel and Mercedes cars. According to this website, in the first half of 2020, 151 people died and 516 were injured in 440 road accidents.
In 2019, 1212 road accidents occurred in Tajikistan, 391 people died and 1314 people were injured. The State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not specify how many accidents occurred due to car breakdowns.
Regardless of the owners of the vehicle inspection and diagnostics sector in Tajikistan and their incomes, the point of vehicle inspection is to ensure that the cars are in good technical condition and drive safely.
While the journalistic investigation and messages in social networks reveal that inspection records can be received in Tajikistan without passing vehicle inspection, the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate claims that by 2020 (until December), “there were no cases of receiving mandatory state vehicle inspection records from the Inspectorate without passing the mandatory vehicle inspection”.
Now, the following question arises: if an inoperative Tico gets into an accident, who will be to blame? Will it be the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate, the company that carried out the inspection or the car owner? The Article 213 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan answers this question. The Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan considers the person who gave permission to operate such a vehicle guilty. A person committing such an act is punished by imprisonment from 2 to 10 years.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project