By Constantinos Psillides
A PRIVATE firm will be hired to install traffic and speed cameras throughout the island in 2015, according Communications and Works permanent secretary Alecos Michaelides.
Michaelides told the Cyprus Mail that ministry officials are putting together a tender that will be advertised in the following months, with the goal of having the system up and running next year.
Michaelides said the company that will be awarded the project will install the cameras and notify the police when a traffic violation is committed. The police will then inform the offender by post, with the photograph and fine attached.
Asked whether he expects any controversy regarding personal data protection, Michaelides said that the ministry is taking this issue very seriously and will put the necessary safeguards in place. “All these will be included in the tender and will be required as part of the contract. We haven’t yet ironed out all the details but I assure you that the contractor will never come in contact with the public. Their job will be to inform the police and that’s it,” he said.
The ministry’s permanent secretary added that the contractor would either receive a percentage of the fine as payment (3-5 per cent) or receive a fixed amount for every fine. “That remains to be seen. It depends on the companies. Some of them would want to be paid a percentage, some a fixed amount. We will evaluate every proposition and decide what’s best for the state,” he said.
The cost is a major factor behind the government’s decision to use a private company instead of setting up the traffic cameras system itself. “We don’t have money for anything now, let alone traffic cameras. By contracting a company the government won’t pay a single cent and still get the job done.”
Asked whether being paid on the number of fines would give an incentive to the company to dish out as many fines as possible, Michaelides said that people who break the law should be punished. “We have delayed this long enough. Installing cameras is the only way to bring order and protect the people from drivers who break the law and have no regard for others’ safety,” he said.
Michaelides did not say how many cameras would be installed but that this is up to the police and that the ministry is expecting a report shortly.
He said he is optimistic regarding the level of interest companies will exhibit in being awarded the tender. “We are expecting a rush of companies. The level of interest is very high and what we have to do is simply choose the best offer,”
Cyprus is the only EU country that doesn’t have an effective traffic camera network set up.
Installing traffic cameras dates back almost a decade. After heated debates, mainly focused on personal data protection, a network was set up in 2006 but it was soon discarded. The cameras had numerous problems, including failure to store photographs and extensive bureaucracy that in some cases resulted in fining a person twice for the same violation while letting others go unpunished.
The cameras were taken down in 2007 and in 2008 it was announced that new cameras would be put up by 2010. In 2011 the Tender Review Board challenged the specifications outlined in the process and cancelled the government’s plan for the fifth time. Failing to find a way of effectively setting up the system, the government decided to report to a private firm.