Yellow speed cameras become white elephants
19 August 2020 | Infrastructure
Nearly four years after the installation of 12 high-tech yellow pole radar traffic cameras on the B1 and B2 national roads, they remain out of operation, their software has lapsed and many have been vandalised.
The 12 radar traffic law enforcement cameras formed part of a traffic management system for which the Namibian police reportedly forked out N$12 million in taxpayer’s money.
Since early May the contract signed between the police and CSS Tactical Security Namibia has been the subject of a criminal investigation.
Worried stakeholders say the investigation has brought any hope to activate the high-tech cameras within the near future to a complete standstill.
CSS Tactical Security Namibia won the tender to supply, install and commission the Traffic Contravention Management system in April 2014.
In an extensive written response on behalf of CSS director Amos Shiyuka, the company's legal team at Francois Erasmus and Partners last week told this newspaper the original formal contract was signed in January 2015 for N$3.7 million.
A copy provided by CSS detailed the deliverables in terms of the initial contract, which included an accident management system, an integrated ANPR CCTV and a bus lane management system.
The official contract also included the delivery of a camera image processing system, document scanning and indexing system, handheld mobile system, a fleet management system, training and first and second level support services.
CSS was tasked to provide a back-end server including back-up system; Artemis fixed speed and red robot cameras and a desktop computer as part of the original contract.
CSS’s legal team wrote that the price more than tripled over the next two years, when the police demanded additional equipment and services. As a result, the "total combined costs of the projects" increased to N$12.3 million, they informed this newspaper.
The additional work included the 12 fixed radar cameras and 12 mobile cameras.
Moreover, “infrastructure shortcomings were identified at some traffic locations. As a result quotations for networking and structured cabling in several regions was requested, accepted and paid for by NamPol after the structured cabling was duly installed.”
Shiyuka’s legal team stressed that the company is not guilty of any wrongdoing and the criminal investigation will prove this. “Our client is anxious for the investigation to be completed as it is confident that upon a thorough consideration of all relevant material, it will be exonerated from any alleged wrongdoing.”
The lawyers said that CSS Tactical became aware of the investigation “via negative press and social media reports”. As a result, the company submitted a “complete lever arch file containing all relevant documentation pertaining to the project in chronological order to the [police].”
They say every "aspect of the project" was carefully recorded.
CSS Tactical confirmed last week that apart from the January 2015 contract, the company also provided technical support for the police in respect of CCTV and biometric access systems at its head office and other branches, in separate contracts.
Namibian police Commissioner Moritz !Naruseb, who took over as head of the CID in mid-July from Commissioner Nelius Becker, confirmed on 23 July that the investigation remained active three months after the case was opened.
He underlined that the type of case being investigated is “document-intensive and complex” in order to verify allegations of fraud or wrongdoing.
“These are gradual processes and currently are ongoing in the case in question.”
!Naruseb declined to respond to follow-up questions sent two weeks later to determine progress in the case, stating only that the “case is still under investigation”.
!Naruseb also said the police would not comment on questions related to whether the 12 fixed cameras were in working condition. It also remains unclear whether the Namibian Standards Institution (NSI) has at any stage since November 2016, when they were delivered to the police by CSS, granted the necessary regulatory approval.
The NSI refused to provide detailed comment on the legality of the radar cameras currently and their regulatory status, citing confidentiality between them and their client.
However, CSS’s legal team wrote that since their installation, and expiry of CSS’s work with the police, “the software license had lapsed and it will require an upgrade”.
Theft and vandalism
Moreover, the lawyers added that reports that many of the cameras have had parts stolen are accurate.
"It has regrettably come to our client's attention that some of the fixed equipment along public roads had been vandalised since installation by unknown members of the public.”
Shiyuka’s legal team added that the vandalism is out of “our client's control, and is rather an indictment against the community at large”.
They added that in the meantime, CSS – at own cost – has demonstrated to NamPol what a software upgrade would require by making the yellow-pole camera near Heja Lodge operational.
The CSS legal team last week explained that at the time the 12 fixed cameras were installed, “speed measuring standards were unavailable in Namibia”.
CSS said that the installation and testing of all the equipment were successfully completed “but to comply with the Metrology Act, the equipment had to be calibrated before it could be finally commissioned. This was done in collaboration with the NSI.”
Nevertheless, CSS says challenges arose with regard to regulatory requirements.
“In terms of the Metrology Act, all speed measuring devices need to be type-approved. At the time speed measuring standards were unavailable in Namibia. The radar standard was subsequently gazetted in August 2018 only.”
By this time, CSS contract had come expired. The legal team added: “The gazetting thereof was unfortunately not within our client’s control.”
NSI spokesperson Mutonga Matali said the authority had shared all relevant information regarding the instruments with the police and could not publicly comment further than that.
Matali said the NSI’s role to verify the accuracy and adequacy of the instruments in question, is limited to “offering type approval, periodic verification, registration and supervision of trade mechanics, as opposed to calibration”.