BEIRUT: The Beirut municipality Friday responded to allegations of mismanagement of an estimated $40 million contract to install 1,500 to 2000 surveillance cameras around the city.
The plan was adopted by the municipal council during a Jan. 10 meeting. According to Beirut Mayor Bilal Hamad, the municipality received five bids from qualified companies and narrowed down their choices to the least expensive, Guardia Systems, which has offices in Lebanon, Nigeria and Iraq.
“No final decisions have been made,” Hamad sad. “The council has yet to decide after the long presentation given by Guardia that took place yesterday, and members of the municipality were very impressed by what the company had to offer.”
Hamad said the $40 million budget was drawn up according to a study carried out in cooperation with Dar Al-Handasah, a prominent engineering company.
“It is still undecided how much will be paid; we are still trying to get some discounts during our council meetings,” Hamad said.
He added that the overall cost would include everything related to establishing a surveillance network, including cameras, installation, software, operation and management, and the construction of two control rooms, one to be managed by the municipality, and the second controlled by the Internal Security Forces. For the first year, the company will operate the network as employees and security personnel are trained to use the surveillance system. This training is also covered in the budget, Hamad said.
Hamad declined to comment directly on Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk’s comments to An-Nahar daily that he had referred the entire case for investigation. Hamad promised, however, to address the public’s concerns soon.
“Everything will be cleared in a news conference; all our steps are transparent,” he said. “After taking a look at the technical presentation, we will soon be presenting to the public, they will then see why this is the greatest project in the history of Beirut.”
A news conference scheduled for Friday was canceled at the last minute for a second day in a row.
Council member Rachid Ashkar said the announcement was postponed for the municipality to gather all necessary information before presenting the plan to the public.
“Not enough information was collected after last night’s meeting [with Guardia], thus we were unable to proceed with this morning’s press conference,” he said.
Ashkar said surveillance cameras were an important step toward making the city safer. Cameras could be used to identify stolen cars, he pointed out. Stolen vehicles were used in a series bombings over the past year.
Cameras could also be used in crime-prone areas to allow law enforcement to respond more quickly by alerting authorities to crimes and accidents, he said.
“I am [in favor of] the project proceeding ... in order to guarantee a preventive [city-wide] camera solution to the benefit of all our citizens.”