State Dept. Bought $500,000 Of Security Cameras Three Years Ago — They Just Sat At Embassy In Costa Rica


Thomas Phippen Acting Editor-In-Chief
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Around $500,000 worth of video surveillance equipment meant for Costa Rican prisons sat in the U.S. embassy for years because officials didn’t know how to plug in the cameras.

The State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Office (INL) at the U.S. embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica, ordered the $540,077 surveillance setup for a high-security prison in 2015 as part of the government’s assistance with local law enforcement.

The problem is management didn’t have a plan to connect the video system to the electrical grid, according to an Inspector General’s inspection of the embassy released Monday. The prison “lacked the necessary electrical infrastructure and cabling,” the report stated.

Video surveillance was necessary to “monitor host government prison conditions due to past allegations of prisoner mistreatment,” the report noted. A 2013 State Department report detailed a number of human rights abuses, including torture and inhuman treatment of prisoners, at multiple prisons around the country.

As the video equipment sat unused in INL’s warehouse at the embassy, the two-year warranties expired, drastically decreasing their resale value. Government purchasers are supposed to have a plan to install such equipment before acquiring it. When inspectors visited the embassy between September and December 2017, officials were considering spending between $500,000 and $1.2 million more for facility upgrades.

The acquisition “decision-making process did not take into account the facility improvements required to operate the equipment,” the report said.

After the OIG recommended the company should come up with a plan, INL said it donated the equipment to Penitentiary Police Dec. 17 to be installed in three high-security prisons at “no additional investment” from the embassy. The OIG was still waiting for documentation of the transfer of equipment but otherwise marked the recommendation as complete, the inspectors said.

It’s unclear how INL resolved the lack of the electrical infrastructure or if the equipment went to different prisons than first intended. The State Department did not immediately return The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Partially due to the video equipment, the embassy’s warehouse stored $617,000 worth of equipment waiting to be given to the Costa Rican agencies. The warehouse had $343,000 of computer equipment — some items worth upwards of $15,000 — intended for the Costa Rican Government. The OIG didn’t find any irregularities with the computer equipment but suggested INL improve its inventory management system.

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