AI cameras: Finance dept expressed dissent twice; FM didn’t even see final project file 

PK Manikantan 

2 min read
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AI camera installed near Mananchira, Kozhikode | Photo: Mathrubhumi

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Finance Department twice reminded the government to remain cautious and transparent over the project to install artificial intelligence cameras to regulate traffic in the state.

According to sources, the department had returned the project file twice, when it came for approval. However, later, the file was considered by the cabinet and was granted approval. Reportedly, not even Finance Minister KN Balagopal had seen the final file.

As a result, the cabinet approval was given completely ignoring the dissent of the finance department. This disregard towards the finance department's warnings shows that the proceedings of the project, which is now under a cloud of suspicion over corruption, are shrouded in mystery.

When the file first came for approval, the finance department had pointed out ambiguity in the financial model of the project. It also asked to decide the contractors in a transparent manner.

However, when the file reached the department for the second time, it was clear that the motor vehicle department (MVD) opted for the BOOT model and Rs 238.82 was sanctioned for the project, in which KELTRON (Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation) was made a partner.

Sources in the finance department told 'Mathrubhumi' that the files ahead of final approval came for consideration in October and November.

It is learnt that the files were sent back at the official level, considering the necessity of such a project to ensure the safety of motorists, after raising objections on its financial model, transparency and recommending corrections.

Recommendations were also made about the actions to be taken ahead of implementing the projects. However, the files were not sent back to the finance department again.

File notes

As the financial model is different from the one recommended by the Finance Department, the approval of the cabinet may be sought for project implementation by clarifying the procedures and price agreement. (Sanjay M Kaul, Finance Secretary)

The structure of the project is different from what the Finance Department had previously suggested. The source of the project fund has not been made clear. (Bishwanath Sinha, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Finance)

Meanwhile, it also has to be noted that the file concerning the AI camera project, during its initial phase, was sent to then Finance Minister Thomas Isaac in May 2020. However, he returned the file after seeing it.

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