|It was hailed by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department as a policing system which would take South African traffic enforcement to new levels – but it has left the city and its ratepayers R46-million poorer.
The JMPD has paid 2Big Mobile Applications this amount over the past two years for a series of IT services which were supposed to revolutionise traffic policing.
However, an investigation by The Star has found that most of the services were allegedly not delivered, or were poorly delivered, using antiquated IT technology.
And while the JMPD wrangles with the company, the City of Johannesburg’s mayoral committee is refusing to terminate the contract.
2Big Mobile Applications was appointed by the JMPD two years ago to set up about 15 different computer applications, including remote summons and warrant printing at roadblocks, SMS fine checks, remote paypoints, licence and driver testing systems, and licence booking systems.
The total cost of the deal has not been disclosed, but allegedly, only about R3-million of work has been carried out so far.
And the city has already lost out to the tune of R46-million.
Some of the services the company rendered, which include traffic officers carrying cellphones to dial in to find out whether motorists have outstanding fines or not, were so outdated they were phased out almost immediately.
Another service, demonstrated at the time of the launch, was the offender call centre, where a team of JMPD staff were to phone motorists with large amounts of outstanding traffic fines to collect money.
This was closed last month because it wasn’t operating properly.
At least seven of the other promised services – including the licence booking, licence testing, driver testing and licence renewal systems – were never delivered because of the introduction of the eNaTIS system by the Department of Transport.
Thousands of people registered for the SMS system, which was supposed to advise them of outstanding warrants for a fee of R5 a month.
But The Star has received complaints from motorists that money was being deducted from their cellphone accounts although they had never received notifications – despite having received summonses.
The fine-collection system was allegedly also outdated and has now been replaced by the recently announced “payfine” system – an online system by which motorists can log on to the Internet, see what fines are outstanding and then pay immediately.
For June alone, R5,9-million was collected.
The remote issuing of warrants at roadblocks took a year to set up – and only two mobile units were allegedly delivered.
In addition, remote paypoints for traffic fine payment were never set up.
And a subscriber service informing motorists of traffic problems was promised – but never set up.
Last week, the JMPD said all services offered by 2Big Mobile, including the SMS service, had been terminated.
However, 2Big Mobile Applications operations director Mokgatle Maesela said his company’s services always operated without glitches.
“Because of personal differences with some top JMPD officials, we are now being prevented from launching our new technologies.
“The JMPD wanted to cancel our contract but the City of Johannesburg mayoral committee refused to do so,” said Maesela.
“We have not been paid since November, despite the fact that the mayoral committee said our contract should not be cancelled.
“It is not a technology issue at all – we have the systems available but are being prevented from implementing them.
“We believe there is corruption involved at some level,” he said, adding that the contract was valid until 2009.
Gabu Tugwana, director of communications for the City of Johannesburg, said he couldn’t comment on the matter as the mayoral committee was in recess for two weeks. He referred queries to metro police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar.
Minnaar confirmed that 2Big Mobile’s services had been discontinued on June 13 but said he could not comment on the termination as the matter was being dealt with by lawyers. He said they had opted for a new system of paying fines on the Internet as it was “more efficient and motorists can view the photos of the infringements and pay immediately online free of charge”.