Zambia: $210m CCTV deal shrouded in secrecy

Uncertainty clouds the awarding of a $210 million government contract to introduce closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras on Zambia’s streets. The contract was awarded earlier this year under a direct agreement without an open tender procedure. The Zambian government has so far refused to name the company that has been awarded the deal. What it has said however is that the contract has been awarded to a Chinese company.

Acting Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Fackson Shamenda has tried to downplay any possible concerns about the controversial contract. He said,

“Government procurement procedures allow single sourcing on certain projects for security reasons.”

In April this year, the Zambian government said the installation of cameras along the nation’s roads is intended to become effective once the country’s Roads and Safety Agency has put in place a solid database to identify owners of vehicles. Under the surveillance system, drivers’ licenses are also expected to be linked to their bank accounts so that those who commit offences are planned to have money debited from them electronically.

The Zambian government said cameras are intended to be placed around city highways in order to check over-speeding and disregard for traffic signals. Curbing criminal activity is also an objective by government with regard to implementing the camera system.

Source: ITWeb Africa

I’m struggling with this one for many reasons. What good is a surveillance camera if the law enforcement agencies can’t perform their most basic of duties efficiently and professionally? What guarantee is there that they will follow up cases caught on camera more effectively than they do now, besides having the recording of a particular incident? Again our policymakers are putting limited resources towards projects that are likely to produce more waste than value.

Also, this business of single sourcing important, high value projects needs to be challenged more vigorously. It is unacceptable in a democracy to have a government that’s meant to be representative of the people operating in the shadows in such a manner. The issue is not that single sourcing is wrong in itself. The problem rises when we know nothing about the firm contracted to carry out a particular project. The likelihood of corruption is greater. I think that’s disrespecting of hardworking taxpayers.

The Freedom of Information Bill, which we’ve been promised will be tabled before Parliament next month, is likely to help bring about greater accountability at least in theory. I suspect the hearsay that pervades much of our private media is as a consequence of a lack of publicly available information. I sincerely hope this will change.

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