Five Perth taxi drivers have been charged with fraud and at least nine more are under investigation for allegedly rorting tens of thousands of dollars from a scheme that subsidises fares for people with serious disabilities.
Two drivers have pleaded guilty to frauds worth more than $24,000 and three more are awaiting court appearances after a Department of Transport audit uncovered irregularities in the use of vouchers associated with the subsidies.
The convicted drivers stole taxi vouchers given to people with serious disabilities who cannot catch other public transport.
The vouchers, provided under the taxi user subsidy scheme, entitle their bearers to discounts of up to 75 per cent of a fare to a value of $25 per trip.
The convicted drivers stole vouchers and claimed money for trips that did not take place.
Brian Smith was fined $4000 after pleading guilty to fraudulently obtaining $13,500 and Mriganko Mukherjee was fined $2000 for fraudulently taking $10,708.
Both were also given community-based orders and it is understood all five charged drivers have had their taxi licences suspended.
After the audit uncovered the alleged frauds, they were referred to police. It is understood fraud squad investigations into at least nine other drivers are continuing.
Transport Minister Troy Buswell said the frauds were discovered because the Government had invested in new systems to monitor the taxi fleet as part of its efforts to clean up the industry.
"It is simply unacceptable that drivers would prey on potentially vulnerable customers who should reasonably expect integrity from the person providing them with this critical service," Mr Buswell said.
"Through the implementation of improved monitoring systems to detect unusual (subsidy scheme) usage and identify fraudulent activity, we are now ensuring that drivers who engage in this illegal behaviour are identified and removed from the industry."
Shadow transport minister Ken Travers said paper-based vouchers were open to rorting and the Government should investigate introducing cards.
"But, most of all, this highlights to me that the taxi industry is constantly the subject of problems because it's just not getting the focus it deserves from the minister," Mr Travers said.