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Friday, 11 April 2014

Failed traffic surveillance system

Utter waste: ITIS engineer Shahrul Azlan an obsolete AID camera. The retired gadgets from the ITIS system are stored for salvage value.

Utter waste: ITIS engineer Shahrul Azlan an obsolete AID camera. The retired gadgets from the ITIS system are stored for salvage value.

ITIS was meant to be a key component to resolve Kuala Lumpur's worsening traffic congestion problem but the project fell flat due to vandalism and obsolete technology.

MORE than RM300mil down the drain.

This huge amount was the cost of ITIS - City Hall’s traffic surveillance system launched to much fanfare a decade ago. A combination of vandalism and obsolete technology has rendered ITIS, short for integrated transport information system, a white elephant.

The scary thing is we have be-come so desensitised by the annual Au­ditor-General’s reports of government largess and mismanagement of funds, that a mere RM300mil hardly raises an eyebrow.

But we should raise a hue and cry. We can’t allow City Hall to get away with brushing millions under the carpet. Just who is responsible for this debacle?

The Star reporters visited the Transport Management Centre (TMC), ITIS’ headquarters at the Bukit Jalil Technology Park in Sungai Besi. What they saw shocked them - a mountain of equipment once worth millions of ringgit waiting to be disposed of. The back of the RM20mil complex is now a scrap yard for obsolete equipment such as the AID (Automatic Incident Detec­tion System) and CCTV (closed-circuit television camera) units, video walls and VMS (variable message sign) boards. All this equipment will be sold for recycling.

Inside the four-storey structure, the magnificent video wall, once the pride and joy of the city, is out of commission and covered in tarpaulin. Take a drive along the Fede­ral Highway and you’ll notice that the giant digital signboard just before the Kota Darul Ehsan arch has not been operational for more than a year. It is the same at other areas.

ITIS had been down since last year, but to understand the root of the problem, we have to go back to 2002 when the RM365mil project was launched. A source told me that the project was given to a contractor which did not have IT expertise. “The Finance Ministry made the mistake of giving it to a contractor without a track record in running such a complex undertaking,’’ he said.

ITIS became operational in 2005 but soon developed problems. It was then that the project was handed over to DBKL. “This was another mistake as City Hall themselves did not have the expertise to handle ITIS,’’ my source told me. Less than two years after ITIS went ‘live’, thieves carted away millions of ringgit worth of copper cables and computer chips from VMS boards.

This was only the start of the problems as soon the technology to keep ITIS running became outdated. The 2011 Auditor-General’s Report highlighted wastage of components worth millions of ringgit which were already obsolete.

To be fair to the Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib, he realised that something needed to be done when he took over as Datuk Bandar almost two years ago. He called for an open tender to appoint new contractors to revive ITIS. GTC Global Sdn Bhd won the RM200mil contract last year to bring ITIS back on track. The company was recently acquired by Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM).

“We are confident of Telekom’s ability to handle this project, but this time, we are doing it differently. Instead of managing the system, we will lease the necessary equipment to them so that their contractor takes the risk,’’ Ahmad Phesal told The Star.

One can only hope that TM gets ITIS operational soon. To illustrate how bad things have become, the new contractor found that only 30 out of the 1000 plus cameras were functioning.

This a real shame as similar systems have been implemented in major cities worldwide to monitor traffic conditions. ITIS was meant to be a key component to resolve the city’s deteriorating traffic problems.

The TMC was built to receive, analyse and evaluate data and disseminate information to road users on which routes to take or avoid. Traffic lights are linked to the TMC but controlled separately at the DBKL traffic control centre in Jalan Raja Laut. ITIS can also be utilised by the police to fight crime by linking its cameras to Bukit Aman.

The new, improved version is expected to be more cost-effective and more importantly will not be vandal-friendly. Instead of copper cables, TM will use fibre optics. The company will put in place an automated alarm system and will also engage a security firm for added safety.

> Executive Editor Brian Martin is hoping the day will come when our mobile phones can be linked to ITIS. Imagine being informed in real time about traffic-clogged roads and being given alternative routes to take to your destination.

Tags / Keywords: Opinion , brian martin , ITIS , City Hall

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