Iris Corporation contests tender disqualification

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MASERU — The adjudication of the multi-million dollar identity cards tender was thrown into further turmoil this week after a Malaysian company appealed a decision by the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Lesotho to disqualify it.
Iris Corporation which had scored the highest points and was set to land the lucrative deal to produce ID cards for Lesotho was disqualified on July 25 following complaints by Gemalto SA, the second highest scoring bidder.
Gemalto alleged that Iris flouted tender regulations when it hosted Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili during a visist to Malaysia while the bid adjudication was still in process.
Gemalto SA argued that Iris’ decision to host a government delegation during the bid adjudication process amounted to corruption and a deliberate attempt to influence the tender estimated to be worth over M130 million.
Gemalto’s appeal was upheld by an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) convened by the MCA-Lesotho after the French and Netherlands-based conglomerate raised its objections, leading to the disqualification of Iris.
MCA-Lesotho then issued a notice disqualifying Iris in local newspapers and proceeded to invite Gemalto for contract negotiations since it had been ranked second by the evaluation panel.
But in another sudden U-turn, Iris has launched an appeal against its disqualification.
It argues that it had not tried to influence the outcome of the tender.
Iris’ appeal immediately prompted MCA-Lesotho CEO, Sophia Mohapi, to write to Gemalto cancelling the invitation to begin contract negotiations for the lucrative tender.
Gemalto has since come out with guns blazing against Mohapi’s latest instructions. Sources within the MCA-Lesotho say Gemalto is arguing that in terms of Clause 3.1 of the Bid Challenge System of MCA Lesotho, the decision by the Independent Appeal Panel, which ruled in favour of Gemalto is final and Iris’ appeal should not be entertained at all.
Sources close to the adjudication process have told the Lesotho Times that the case may finally end up in court unless MCA-Lesotho moves swiftly to implement all its bid adjudication regulations and “determine the rights of all parties”.
The ID tender was first cancelled earlier this year after confidential information leaked to bidders before the final report was sent to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which finances the project.
Iris was not among the companies shortlisted during the first tender adjudication process.
One MCA-Lesotho official interviewed on condition of anonymity said as far as he was concerned the actions by Iris in inviting a government delegation while the adjudication process was still on were “indefensible”.
Iris has a controversial history of bungling. Several online publications have revealed that the firm has a long checkered history.
In its home country, Malaysia, Iris Corporation was part of a consortium that won a contract for supply of chip based National Electronic ID cards in May 1999.
However, poor quality of supplies and sub-standard software has mired it in controversy ever since, according to the media reports.
The Malaysian government said in a press article that more than a million of the two millions applications received for ID card replacement last year alone were due to chip problems.
The Star Online reports that “chip failure was the main cause of MyKad replacements in the country.”
The smart chip contains complex electrical and wiring components, which are sensitive to stress, heat and humidity.
“The department had confirmed that 1 018 698 of the 2 158 621 applications for MyKad replacements received last year were due to faulty chips,” says the Star Online.
Another publication, the Malaysian Digest reports that the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee had to call for an immediate investigation into poor quality of the microchip used for MyKard, the national ID system.
The publication says the Malaysian National Registration Department confirmed that 1.02 million of the 2.2 million applications for MyKard replacements received in 2010 “were due to faulty chips.”
The ID cards were being rejected at banks, immigration department, road transport department, employees’ provident fund and other essential public service providers.
The cards were developed and manufactured by Iris Corporation for the Malaysian government.
The media say between 2006 and 2008 about two million faulty cards, also manufactured and developed by Iris Corporation, were replaced.
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 biometries 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 and high-security print shall be incorporated in the card to prevent fraudulent copy or reproduction of the Lesotho’s national ID card.
The MCA-Lesotho spokesperson, ’Malehlohonolo Motlalane, told the Lesotho Times in an earlier interview that the MCA tender panel was not aware of the damning media reports about Iris Corporation before it was short listed and put ahead of its competitors.
“MCA is not aware of any bungling,” she said.
Efforts to get a comment Iris were not successful.

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