Manitoba Public Insurance is investigating after a Winnipeg car dealership group recently came forward with concerns vehicle safety inspections were being conducted on stolen certificates of inspection.

In a statement provided to CTV News, MPI spokesperson Brian Smiley said the public insurer immediately launched an investigation after receiving the information from Birchwood Automotive Group that light vehicle inspections were being conducted by former Birchwood employees acting outside the scope of their employment.

“As a result of the investigation, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles immediately suspended two technicians formerly from Birchwood from conducting light vehicle inspections,” Smiley said in an email to CTV News. “MPI and Birchwood subsequently sent a notification letter to about 200 affected vehicle owners, explaining that their Certificate of Inspection was no longer valid and considered null and void.

“As administrators of the Light Vehicle Inspection program, the safety of vehicle owners and other road users is the priority of MPI.”

Birchwood Automotive Group president and CEO Steve Chipman told CTV News the work wasn’t by Birchwood. Chipman said the certificates of inspection were stolen and the inspections were conducted off site without Birchwood’s approval.

“As soon as we discovered this, we notified Manitoba Public Insurance and have been co-operating fully in its investigation,” said Chipman. “These safeties were not performed in any of our facilities.

“We notified MPI because we’re concerned about the safety of vehicles on the road.”

He said the certificates of inspection originated from Birchwood Nissan and the inspections are supposed to be done in a shop.

“We’ve done an audit of all our other dealerships and all forms are in place,” said Chipman. “My concern is the vehicles may not be safe.”

“We can’t guarantee that the car’s been properly safetied, properly inspected. That was our primary concern: to make sure that there are no vehicles on the road in Manitoba that aren’t safe to drive.”

Chipman said two employees have been fired.

Affected vehicle owners have been asked to make appointments with the Birchwood Reconditioning Centre for an inspection at no charge.

Chipman said Birchwood’s offering to inspect the affected vehicles at no charge to help ensure the safety of vehicles on the road.