Lesotho Times

Controversy dogs ID tender

MASERU — Iris Corporation, a Malaysian company with a checkered history, is leading the race for a contract to supply national identity documents to Lesotho, the Lesotho Times can reveal.
Iris has the highest evaluation score out of the four companies shortlisted by the Millennium Challenge Account Lesotho for the lucrative tender worth more than M100 million.
The other three companies are Gemalto SA, Morpho and Muhlbauer.
But questions have been raised about how Iris could have won the tender after it bungled an almost similar project in Malaysia.
In 1997 Iris won a tender to supply ID cards to two million Malaysians.
It then designed the ID card it branded MyKad and started issuing it in May 1999.
But the project soon ran into serious problems when one million of those IDs malfunctioned and had to be replaced at a huge cost to the Malaysian government which had funded the project and subsidised the issuance of the cards.
The problem with the Mykad was that the micro-chip that contains personal information like names, finger prints, blood type, the national insurance number and other crucial personal information malfunctioned.
The ID cards were being rejected at banks, immigration department, road transport department, employees’ provident fund and other essential public service providers.
In 2010 Malaysia’s Deputy Home Affairs Minister Abu Seman Yusop said more than a million of the two million applications received for ID card replacement in that year alone were due to chip problems.
The Star Online, a Malaysian online newspaper, also reported that the National Registration Department of Malaysia had confirmed “that 1 018 698 of the 2 158 621 applications for MyKad replacements received last year were due to faulty chips.”
So serious was the problem that the Malaysian parliament called for an immediate investigation into the quality of the micro-chips that Iris had used for the Mykad.
It is this reputation that has brought into question the suitability of Iris to do a proper job on Lesotho’s ID projects.
The ID project has been mired in controversy since the MCA was forced to cancel the initial tender after confidential information was leaked before the winning bid was announced.
Iris was one of the 10 companies that participated in the tender in January this year but it was not shortlisted.
After that the MCA reissued the tender on April 1 with the same specifications.
This time Iris resubmitted its bid and scored superbly in both the technical and financial evaluation, triggering allegations that it might have used insider information to prepare its bid documents.
For instance, Iris scored 100 percent on the financial evaluation, meaning that it had precisely nailed what the tender panel was looking for.
The company said it could do the job for US$15 642 722 (M109 499 054). On technical evaluation the company had an 88.88 percent score.
That put its overall score at 88.85 percent, making it the best bidder.
It beat its closest competitor Gemalto SA which has a total score of 88.57 percent by 0.28 percentage points. Gemalto SA which said it could do the job for US$18 926 979 (M132 488 853) scored 89.62 percent on technical evaluation and 82.65 percent on financial assessment.
Morpho which proposed a total cost of US$19 792 769 (M138 549 383) came third with an overall score of 84.93 percent.
Muhlbauer which got the least score of 84.41 percent had proposed a cost of US$25 859 164 (M181 014 148).
Iris is the company that hosted Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili during his state visit to Malaysia from May 4-7.
Its chief executive Say Jim Tan had a private dinner with Mosisili on May 5 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
According to the itinerary the dinner was held at 19:00. On May 6 at around 15:30 Mosisili and his delegation also visited Iris Corporation’s offices at the Technology Park Malaysia, also in Kuala Lumpur.
After that meeting several Malaysian media claimed that the Prime Minister was in talks with Iris to make Lesotho’s IDs and e-passports.
Curiously these reports came out even before the shortlisted companies were announced.
However, the government secretary, Tlohang Sekhamane, said during the dinner and the meeting Mosisili had not talked about Iris’ bid.
Sekhamane said by the time Mosisili visited Malaysia, Iris Corporation had already been shortlisted.
“When he left for Malaysia, Iris had already been selected as number one among companies that were shortlisted,” Sekhamane said.
“His visit to the Iris offices had nothing to do with the tend’s outcomeer in Lesotho,” he said.
“He couldn’t have influenced the outcome of the tender process.”
Sekhamane said Iris did not bid in the initial tender.
He said it was the MCA that had told him this information.
But highly placed sources insisted Iris was among the companies that participated in the initial tender which was later cancelled.
The sources said the second tender submission was done on April 18.
The sources said the technical short-listing was announced on May 27.
The technical score as well as the opening of the financial bids was done on June 3.
By early May information about the shortlisted companies had not yet been released.
And as late as last week MCA spokesperson, ’Malehlohonolo Motlalane, said “the MCA is still in the evaluation phase of this procurement action and could not confirm who won the contract until the due process is complete and announced in the standstill period.”
Motlalane said the MCA tender panel was not aware that Iris had bungled before it was shortlisted. “MCA is not aware of any bungling,” said Motlalane in response to questions this week.
This was not the first time Iris has received officials from the Lesotho government.
In July 2008 a delegation from the Lesotho’s home affairs ministry travelled to Malaysia visited the company and the country’s National Registration Department.
That tour which was from July 7 to 13 was funded by the Private Sector Competitiveness project whose main benefactor was the World Bank.
The delegation had visited Malaysia to study Iris’s Mykad project.
After the visit the delegation wrote a glowing report about the Mykad project.
Efforts to contact Iris were not successful.
This paper sent questions to the company’s head of marketing Connie Yee but she had not responded at the time of going to print.
Officials at the company said Yee would get back to us when she comes into office.
The MCC is an independent US foreign aid agency that is helping lead the fight against global poverty. It was created by the US Congress in January 2004.
The MCC’s executive arm in Lesotho is the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which was created by the Lesotho parliament.
Meanwhile, Motlalane says the Office of the Inspector General which is a United States government body responsible for conducting independent audits, inspections and investigations is still investigating circumstances that led to the cancellation of the initial ID tender.
Lesotho’s ID will be more or less the size of the bank card (commonly known as the ATM card), and shall bear visible demographic details of the holder such as all names, date of birth, address and other information and an individual’s facial image.
The micro-chip shall be embedded within the card (as in latest bank credit cards) and shall bear concealed demographic and biometric information (face, fingerprint and iris images) of the holder that can only be read by specialised equipment to verify an individual’s identity.
Multiple visible and invisible security features as well as high-security print shall be incorporated in the card to prevent fraudulent copy or reproduction of the national ID card.
Iris submitted their bid in January 2011 but was not short-listed.

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

Contact us today: News: editor@lestimes.co.ls Advertising: marketing@lestimes.co.ls Telephone: +266 2231 5356

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