Categories GADGETSSOUTHAFRICATECH

Jo’burg speed cameras offline

An intervention by the Democratic Alliance administration in Johannesburg to clean up contracts with service providers has brought the electronic enforcement of speed limits to a halt and seriously affected law enforcement in general.

The City of Johannesburg has failed to respond to detailed questions about the matter.

Four different and independent sources have, however, confirmed to Moneyweb that around March the city cancelled contracts of five service providers who supplied equipment and systems to generate the fines.

Former director Gerrie Gerneke, who retired from the Johannesburg Metro Police (JMPD) two years ago, said the department used to generate R30m to R35m/month from traffic fines. This was largely done through the 500 000 camera fines issued every month.

This income he believes has now been reduced to less than R3m.

He is, however, more concerned about the fact that motorists can now speed with impunity. Gerneke says electronic enforcement on the scale previously done in Johannesburg is the most appropriate way of reducing vehicle accidents on the city’s freeways.

According to Gerneke, the service providers, including TMT Services, Syntell and MVS Phumelelo, have been providing a turnkey electronic law enforcement system for several years. That includes the provision of calibrated cameras, the vehicles used to place such cameras every morning, uploading the data, providing computers, generating fines, delivering fines to the South African Post Office for service on the vehicle owners as well as paying the postage.

The service providers were paid per prosecutable photo and that equated to about 40% of the collected revenue from such fines, he said. Some months they collectively earned up to R20m from which they had to cover the cost of their equipment and staff before taking profit, Gerneke says.

Equipment

The equipment they provided included, among other things, 120 mobile and 68 fixed site cameras, 250 computers, more than 150 general vehicles and six vehicles equipped with highly specialised automatic number plate recognition systems used at smart road blocks.

When he left the JMPD two years ago, the contracts were extended by a year and thereafter on a month-to-month basis, he said.

Gerneke and several other sources confirmed that the new DA administration cancelled the contracts around March. In terms for the Municipal Finance Management Act, it is unlawful to repeatedly extend a contract without calling for competitive tenders again and the move was apparently aimed at cleaning out non-compliant contracts.

It however left the city without cameras or systems to issue the volumes of speeding fines it used to.

Cornelia van Niekerk, owner of fines administrator Fines4U, said that in the past she received more than a thousand camera fines per month from the JMPD on behalf of her clients. Fines4U administers fines on behalf of 500 companies and 8 000 individuals clients. Since March she has not received anything and no such fines are loaded onto the National Contravention Register she has access to.

National chairman of the Justice Project Howard Dembovsky confirmed that the JMPD used to focus almost solely on issuing speeding fines by camera. It has dried up since the end of February or the beginning of March when the service providers were booted out, he said.

Syntell

The city thereafter utilised a provision in the MFMA to “piggyback” on a tender awarded to Syntell by neighbouring Ekurhuleni. It is not clear exactly what the scope of the new contract with Syntell is, but Moneyweb understands it mainly provides for the “back office” and not for large-scale camera enforcement.

The city did not respond to questions on whether it plans to issue a new tender for electronic speed enforcement and if so, when this will be done.

Gerneke said provided the city has the necessary expertise, the full procurement process can take up to 12 months before a new service provider is appointed in the highly technical field of law enforcement. Even then, it can take a further few months to ramp up to full service, he says.

He said other contracts that the city cancelled due to non-compliance include the provision of CCTV services, which is the nerve centre of the security system in the CBD, and contracts for the processing of accident statistics and the digitisation of licensing documentation.

The on-street parking control contract that was developed after six years without such a system was also cancelled, which cost the city an income of about R1m/month, Gerneke said.

About 190 people have lost their jobs as a result of the loss of the camera enforcement contract and 68 after the cancellation of the CCTV contract, he said.

“These systems are the backbone of law enforcement in the city. Without them the whole system that was built up over years is imploding. It breaks my heart.”

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