The tender bungle surrounding Joburg inner city’s surveillance cameras is an embarrassment which must be resolved urgently. Seven years ago, the multi-million rand project was introduced as an anti-crime initiative that would help rescue the city from decay.

The CCTV cameras certainly delivered results – although working alongside other projects – and aided in the Central Business District’s battle against crime and grime.

With the help of “Big Brother”, police have arrested murderers, rapists and robbers. The footage was used in court and helped secure convictions. The cameras have also been acting as a deterrent to the criminals who made the area a “no go zone” in the 1990s.

Now, the 176-camera initiative has been left to limp along with outdated technology while council deliberates on who will run it for the next three years.

Cueincident’s 5-year, R160-million contract ran out in 2005, and the City of Joburg has been delaying granting a new tender ever since.

At the end of last year the council finally got its act together and invited companies to bid for the new contract. But now it is four months late in announcing a new contractor.

The trouble is that Cueincident cannot upgrade its equipment because it does not know if it will get the next contract, and more than 160 staff members are living in limbo.

Property developers are fuming because foreign investors are concerned about crime and now feel even more uneasy. Criminals are also likely to cash in on the security lapse … something we cannot afford.

We have seen with the Lotto contract what kind of mess comes with tender bungles. This must not happen to this important project.

This newspaper spent two weeks trying to get the council’s comment. This possibly illustrates the extent of the problem. Has the council lost interest in the project which was hailed as a success by visitors from around the world?

Will the cameras be part of the security initiatives around the 2010 World Cup? And when will they finally announce a new contractor?

These questions need urgent answers.