Keeping an eye on CCTVs

The close circuit television (CCTV), a simple technology, has changed the way people do surveillance. It is one device that has now almost become a necessity, as it helps in preventing thefts, burglaries, vandalism and littering.

It is not only government buildings or big private properties that have resorted to the technology. CCTV cameras monitor small shops, residences and offices and even in many cases the whole town or city.  Many claim that the technology has helped in policing and led to the reduction of crime rates. Some even claim that CCTVs, even if non-functional, deter miscreants with the fear of getting caught on the camera.

Last week, Kuensel found out that while the technology is simple, there are problems with it. Some towns have replaced the entire cameras, with better ones while some are planning to replace or restore after the cameras become defunct. In the meantime, even small towns are demanding the technology knowing its effectiveness.

Eventually, we will, unfortunately, see most public places needing cameras to monitor people. The problem, however, is not with the technology, but with the quality of devices and decisions made. If the purpose is surveillance, there should be quality. A blurry image captured by a cheap camera and not being able to recognise the miscreant is as good as not installing them at all. If most or all the cameras start malfunctioning not long after its installation, it is a waste of public money.

There are cheap CCTV cameras and there are very expensive ones. What we choose and how much we spend depends on the purpose of going for the technology. The new cameras in Bajo town have also come under scrutiny, albeit from a private company, who alleged that goods supplied have not met specifications. The contractor claims otherwise. The dzongkhag would conduct an independent review if authorities felt the need for one.

Procuring goods had always been a problem. To ensure public resources are not wasted and to prevent nexus between suppliers and the procuring agency, a lot of goods are purchased through open tenders. However, our procurement rules, even after several amendments, are not totally foolproof. The government has learnt that, in procurement, quotes that are lower than the cost usually mean cheap goods. And we also learnt that those supplying goods have tricks up their sleeves to fine-tune rules.

The onus is on those sitting on the committee. Awarding works or procuring goods do not end with the tender committee making the final decision. In many cases, the problem starts after work is awarded.

Without inspection during work and quality check later, and in some cases, asking for warranty, public service is affected. That is why, for instance, our blacktopped roads are not lasting longer or developing potholes and our equipment start giving problems not long after purchasing it.

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