Surveillance cameras in Joburg’s inner city chased criminals away and helped rescue the area from decay, but the world-class project is now under threat – thanks to a tender bungle.

The seven-year-old anti-crime initiative is “limping along” with outdated technology, and its 160 staff members are in limbo because the council is running almost four months late in awarding a R100-million tender for the renewal of the project.

Cueincident, the company operating the 176 cameras, won’t spend money on repairs and upgrades because they don’t know who will get the rights to run the project past the 2010 World Cup mark. They have been running the cameras on a month-by-month basis.

A new contractor would get funding to double the number of cameras.

Set up in March 2000, the crime-busting project drew admirers from across the world and was hailed as a success for the inner city – an area into which the government has pumped a great deal of resources to bring about a revival.

In 2005, Cueincident’s five-year, R160-million contract ran out. The council postponed the tender process by more than a year, asking Cueincident to carry on and not dismantle its operation.

In October last year, tenders were finally called for and the closing date fixed as February 16. Some 17 companies showed interest. Five were asked to bid and two – one of them Cueincident – were eventually left in the running.

The council promised to deliver its decision on a three-year contract by the end of March, but failed to do so.

“Joburg’s crime safety net is under threat,” a senior source close to the project said. “At best this is because of the council’s incompetence. At worst there is something more sinister going on.”

The source said the equipment was “limping along” and was now outdated and in need of attention. Criminals would take advantage if the system had to go down.

The Star spoke to a developer in the inner city and was told that the delay was having a negative impact on foreign investors who had security doubts about the area.

Cueincident’s chief executive, Vusi Twala, said the company could not comment on the situation because the tender was still being considered.

When the tender, worth between R80- and R100-million, is awarded, and if Cueincident is not successful, there will need to be a takeover period, which could delay matters even further.

Cueincident boasts that crime in the CBD dropped by up to 80% after the cameras were installed.

Captured: A homeless man lies dead in President Street. Paramedics had allegedly refused to take him to hospital because he was “too dirty”.