Metro assets easy picking for thieves

Serious lapses in security systems, report reveals

City Manager Johann Mettler
City Manager Johann Mettler
Image: Herald Photographer

A complete breakdown in radio signals, cable theft and a lack of critical security equipment have left almost 400 municipal assets vulnerable to thieves and vandals.

Although there are alarm systems at electricity substations, customer care centres, depots, sports centres and offices, among other Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality assets, break-ins – when they occur – are not picked up by the city’s control room.

This emerged in a report by the city’s safety and security department to the mayoral committee on Wednesday.

This, as the metro continues to battle with its CCTV system and network that is plagued by disruptions and shutdowns.

The municipality’s ongoing legal wrangle with Afrisec Strategic Solutions, which used to run the CCTV system and alarm monitoring on behalf of the city, has been blamed for its assets not being adequately secured.

The security control room, manned by the safety and security department, monitors 391 alarm sites.

They include 188 electrical substations, 20 swimming pools, nine halls, 17 libraries, 10 customer care centres, 18 depots, 75 offices, four sports centres, 18 pump stations and 32 sports fields.

The report, compiled by executive director Keith Meyer, states that in July 2016, the municipality detected 70 alarm activations at its sites.

But activations have been on the decline since then, with only 17 recorded in November last year, four in December and none in January.

The metro uses radio signal and Telkom lines for the alarms to notify its control room.

However, radio links and some equipment were removed when the court battle between the municipality and Afrisec began.

This has led to no communication via the radio signal and, as a result, has affected the monthly alarm activations report.

Making matters worse, some Telkom cables have been stolen and other lines have been vandalised.

“The effect was very negative as a number of localities are not protected,” Meyer said in the report.

“Various meetings were held to find a lasting solution in the absence of a credible contract, as the responsibility to get the system up and running or a new service provider in place rests solely on the shoulders of facilities management, who drafted the specifications and had to ensure that the contract goes out on tender to have a credible service provider appointed.”

Yesterday, mayoral committee member in charge of safety and security John Best said all the alarms were working. “The equipment is working on the site, it’s just not sending the signal to the control room,” he said.

Best said the department had initiated talks with the electricity department in an effort to come up with a solution.

Best wants his department to be in charge of alarm monitoring as well as maintenance and repairs.

Safety and security’s only role at present is to monitor alarm activations and to send security staff if there are any break-ins.

“We recommend that the entire contract for the installation, repair and monitoring of the alarms be handed over to safety and security, including the budget to minimise any future challenges,” Best said.

He said they hoped to speed up the process by “piggy-backing” on a contract that the electricity department was exploring as a short-term solution for its 188 substations.

The plan entails having substations monitored by a computer system that keeps an eye on energy data at the electricity control room.

This would all be monitored by two security staff.

Best said officials would examine the possibility of linking the other 203 sites which are not related to the electricity system.

They would know if it could work or not within the next two weeks.

Asked why they had not stationed additional security staff at the sites, he said: “The current security staff were also at some of the sites where the alarms weren’t [being detected].

“The fact is that the alarms are working but we’ve got to put more people on the ground to protect our premises.

“We have to put in more resources to address this.”

Best said the city hoped to put out a tender soon for a new service provider for CCTV cameras, even though the court case with Afrisec was still ongoing.

City manager Johann Mettler warned that the alarm-signal problem could be flagged as a risk to the municipality by the auditor-general.

“Some of our infrastructure is not adequately secured,” Mettler said.

He said the aim was to centralise the monitoring of alarm activations.

Mayoral committee member in charge of infrastructure, engineering and energy Masixole Zinto said: “It would really assist to have one system that controls and protects our infrastructure – and it must reside where it belongs in safety and security.”