A quarter of a billion rand was poured into a hi-tech security system in Nelson Mandela Bay which is now on the brink of collapse, raising fears about the metro’s assets not being adequately secured.
The CCTV system and network is plagued by constant disruptions and shutdowns, forcing municipal staff to do regular patchwork in a bid to have at least some of the city’s 1 287 cameras working.
This leaves municipal assets, such as depots with vehicles, equipment and the armoury unmonitored for days at a time while municipal staff try to resolve the problem.
It also plays havoc with the alarm systems at municipal buildings, forcing the metro to deploy extra security guards, at times, to keep watch over the assets.
The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the city does not have qualified staff to run the camera control room and adequately fix glitches when they arise.
Municipal insiders say the municipality is battling to keep things running and is now turning to other metros for expert help.
The municipality said the City of Cape Town had agreed to send one of its CCTV experts to help the Bay “in moving forward and developing a sustainable plan”.
“The NMBM is discussing the CCTV challenge with metros in order to acquire the necessary skills and expertise,” city manager Johann Mettler said. “The CCTV system is not stable as a result of not having a service provider appointed through the supply management process.
“It is a highly complex system that requires constant maintenance to operate efficiently.”
He said 24 staff had been trained to do surveillance.
A city insider said that of the 1 287 cameras installed in the metro, about 500 were not hooked up to the system and were basically useless.
At least 300 of the cameras are focused on street surveillance in crime hot spot areas as well as traffic flow at busy intersections.
There are also cameras in areas such as Helenvale and the busy beachfront strip.
While it is understood that this week only about half of the connected cameras were working and monitoring crime hotspot areas and buildings, last week there was a complete shutdown.
There were fears in the weeks leading up to the Ironman Africa championship event last month that the system would not be up and running in time for the event as it had crashed and took days to repair.
Asked about the extent of the problem and if the CCTV system was currently working, Mettler said: “The CCTV system is currently operational but has had occasional dips as a result of power failures and circuitry challenges. All council assets remain secure with additional security being deployed where necessary.
“All assets that are deemed to be a security risk and have CCTV challenges have additional security deployed in order to ensure continued security.”
Asked if the metro’s alarm systems were working, Mettler said: “There are intruder alarms that are operational. In instances where there is a problem, security guards are being deployed”. He said the main risk with not resolving the CCTV problems was that the system would become progressively “more unstable” due to maintenance and system failures.
Mettler said there were cameras operating in streets and inside metro buildings, and that the recording of footage was possible on cameras that were working.
Currently, the majority of the early warning systems – crucial technology meant to help predict and warn of any pending disasters, whether natural or human-inflicted – were not working.
Mettler said that it was because the early warning systems were linked to the CCTV system and required maintenance. He said some of the systems had been vandalised.
The biometric fingerprint system to allow staff in and out of municipal buildings cannot be altered at the moment because the metro does not have a service provider in place. This means that no staff can be added or removed from the municipality’s biometric access control, including staff who have been fired or suspended.
Mettler said: “This is as a result of not having a service provider. This is being dealt with in conjunction with the CCTV systems”.
The company that used to run the CCTV system on behalf of the municipality, Afrisec Strategic Solutions, is embroiled in a legal dispute with the municipality over R92.4-million the city believes the company should not have been paid.