Сре. сеп 27th, 2023

Video surveillance for 1.1 million in the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo: Does public procurement lead to secret crime?

The Municipality has long been reluctant to disclose who conducted the report. However, the company claims it will not participate in the 1.1 million worth tender. There are enough details in the tender to suggest that it is intended for a specific company. This is also claimed by a councilor in the Municipal Council.

 

 Witten by: Rubina ČENGIĆ/Interview

 

Since December 2022, the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo has been conducting a public procurement process for the procurement and installation of equipment for video surveillance of public facilities and areas estimated at 1.1 million KM.

However, this process is controversial from two aspects. The description of the required equipment provides enough details to suggest that a specific company is being chosen. There is also a dispute about whether the Municipality has the right to record public facilities and areas. This is due to the fact that the cameras record both video and sound, which creates the possibility of eavesdropping.

Who conducted the report?

Offerors and potential suppliers of the requested goods and services are concerned about the possibility that, as they emphasize, the report that preceded this public procurement was carried out by a company that favors a certain supplier. This is primarily due to the fact that the Municipality initially refused to disclose the name of the company that conducted the report, claiming that ‘the company will not participate in the tender’. They were not even given the opportunity to find out the names of the experts that the Municipality is referring to.

From the companies that have obtained the tender documentation, it is understood that ‘this is not a guarantee because the author of the report may have favored a certain company by incorporating elements that only it can satisfy’.

 

 

When they were looking for a company to produce the report, they were looking for someone with Cisco certificates, which is not usual for companies in this field. In fact, studies for video surveillance can and should only be done by security agencies. However, this should be done after a market research. In addition, we have asked several times who conducted the report. Only after several attempts, we received information that it was NITESCO d.o.o., which we suspect is associated with a possible supplier whose certificate they hold. We suspect that this company was favored with certain elements of the report, or requirements for this job,” explained a company that obtained the tender documentation.

Elements for a specific bidder

 Slobodan Golubović from the Pratimotendere portal emphasizes that there are reasons for concern:

– It is common for public procurement to be preceded by the preparation of an elaborate document that contains elements that only one specific company or bidder can meet – he says.

 One of the companies that has obtained the tender documentation suspects that the procurement was prepared for SYS Company, which is an authorized distributor of Cisco systems for Bosnia and is connected to Dahua Technology, where Elis Hrkalović, the current advisor in the office of the Mayor of Novo Sarajevo Hasan Tanović, was the director of the Bosnia and Herzegovina branch.

– The contracting authority does not have any information that the mentioned person participates in any way in public procurement processes, and any connection, not only of the mentioned person, but also of any employee or associate of the contracting authority with certain companies, is irrelevant, because the contracting authority conducts all its processes independently and without influence – wrote the representatives of the Municipality.

What is written in the tender?

To clarify, the tender documentation states that the bidder must have valid ISO 27001:2013 certificates (Information Security Management System) and ISO 27001:2013 certificates (Information Security Management System), among other requirements.

In addition, the bidder must possess industrial security clearances to access classified information classified up to and including: SECRET issued by the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the decision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for performing technical protection tasks.

 

Furthermore, the bidder must possess a manufacturer’s confirmation of the offered equipment being in an active partnership and technically capable of realizing the proposed solution in the procedure. They must guarantee that they are technically qualified to provide the required level of technical support and service during the warranty period. Additionally, there are technical certificates for the implementation of the solution from at least five certified technical personnel issued by the manufacturer or otherwise contractually bound individuals who will participate in the project realization.

Detail by detail

The public procurement in question involves the installation of 118 cameras, including 6 thermal cameras. The video surveillance system is intended to be installed in four locations: Hrasno Brdo and the building of the Municipality, the area of the Šemso Baručija barracks, the area of the Hum hill, and 18 buildings of local communities.

The tender documentation includes details such as pixel size, minimum horizontal viewing angle, sensitivity level, and the ability to display hallway views.

The Municipality claims that they “do not have information that the equipment defined in the technical specifications was copied from any catalog”.

– In the tender documentation, precisely because of greater transparency and opening up opportunities for a larger number of manufacturers, it is stated, among other things, “with the described technical characteristics on the market or equivalent”, which clearly indicates that the manufacturer and type of equipment are not determined, but that bidders can offer an equivalent. Specifically, this condition explains the intention of the contracting authority to respect the principles of public procurement. If there are any arguments and relevant facts to support the claims you have made, all potential bidders in the current procurement phase can submit them in an appeal to the competent institution in accordance with the positive legal regulations that regulate public procurement – stated the Novo Sarajevo Municipality.

 Audio recording

Slobodan Golubović further explains that it is also a question of whether there is a license or certificate that is specific to only one supplier in the qualification requirements.

Among the questions on the public procurement portal is whether the Municipality has the right to record sound. Because according to the tender documentation, for thermal cameras they are seeking “intelligent video and audio functions such as sound detection, sound classification, and shock detection for temperature changes,” among other things. A microphone is needed for sound detection and classification.

The Municipality again claims that they have no intention of recording sound.

 The tender documentation clearly and unambiguously states the possibility of audio detection, which is not the same as recording sound. Audio detection refers to the detection of glass breakage, gunshots, break-ins of doors, windows and fences, explosions, etc., which cameras cannot visually detect, but are detected through the mentioned audio detection – explained by the municipality.

Detection of sound and eavesdropping

They also point out that this is a “very important function in cases where the protected area cannot be completely covered by video surveillance or perimeter protection, because detection covers all those zones that are not protected by video surveillance.”

 As we have explained to potential bidders several times, sound detection is not the same as eavesdropping. Eavesdropping is the secret surveillance of conversations between individuals and is legally used by authorized officials and institutions as a special evidentiary action in criminal investigations, as well as secret monitoring of non-verbal communication through video surveillance. In this specific procurement, it is clear that the contracting authority is using a video surveillance and audio detection system to protect people and property, and that notices will be posted indicating that the space or part of the protected space is being protected by video surveillance and audio detection system – state the responsible officials of the Municipality.

What else is disputed?

Potential bidders believe that the requirement for a bidder to possess a valid industrial security clearance up to and including the “SECRET” level issued by the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina is also controversial. They believe that the Municipality does not possess such a clearance, which automatically deprives it of the right to request this.

Security experts warn that this is indeed controversial.

– The municipality would have to establish its own security agency that would then have to go through the process preceding the obtaining of this permit. Or they could sign a contract with a security agency. This then opens up the controversy of access to data that private security agencies may not be allowed to access, regardless of industrial-security permits – they point out.

There is no new practice

The authorities from the municipality once again claim that they have the right to request a security clearance in accordance with applicable laws. Everything, they add, is in the interest of protecting citizens and property from the perspective of public safety, which includes the mentioned procurement.

We will not be monitoring the mentioned system. The mentioned activities can and will be carried out by security services, namely the internal security service or the security agency with which the municipality has a signed contract. All activities related to video surveillance will be coordinated with the competent internal affairs authorities and other security agencies which, as needed, will be able to access the system. The subject public procurement envisages the establishment of video surveillance over facilities that are owned by the municipality or that are entrusted to the municipality for management. The municipality has an obligation and the right to protect its property, which is also the property of its citizens. The manner in which video surveillance is established is identical to the methods used by many municipalities in Canton Sarajevo, as well as other cantons and local communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. No new practices will be introduced with this procurement compared to previous procurements of a similar or the same type. Positive legal regulations allow the contracting authority to request an industrial security clearance. In Bosnia and Herzegovina’s market, a large number of providers possess this permit and can participate in this procurement, so the condition is in no way discriminatory”, explain the municipality representatives.

For security experts, this raises new questions: where will the data recorded by this video surveillance be stored, who will manage it, who will process it, and who will it be forwarded to? They also ask who will service the equipment. All of these, they emphasize, are questions that always arise when such goods and services are procured.

Councilor claims: Everything is rigged

Independent councilor in the municipality of Ilidža, Tarik Hošić, filed a criminal complaint against the mayor of the municipality of Novo Sarajevo and unknown individuals in early March 2022 regarding this tender.

Hošić believes that “the public procurement was rigged for a specific company and that it is much more expensive than it could be if it were truly open, at least by 500,000 KM.”

Finally, the municipality states that the Contracting Authority will make a decision on the outcome of this public procurement when all procedures related to appeals against the tender documentation of a potential bidder, which has been forwarded to the second instance body for action, are completed. There are also extensions of the procedure due to additional clarifications.

 

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