MASERU — The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA)-Lesotho has for the third time cancelled Lesotho’s national identity card tender, the Lesotho Times can reveal.
The MCA-Lesotho this week said it was cancelling the ID tender in line with “MCC programme guidelines which provide for annulment of bids due to high prices”.
“We are currently in the process of re-examining our implementation strategy for the National Identity Card project,” said MCA-Lesotho spokesperson ’Malehlohonolo Motlalane in a statement. “Once MCA-Lesotho has made a final decision on that strategy then request for proposals will be issued,” she said.
The cancellation comes after a chaotic nine months that have seen the tender being cancelled twice due to irregularities.
The MCA-Lesotho said it has since informed all bidders about the decision.
“The request for proposals will be open to all firms and advertised locally and internationally.
“The step that has been taken by MCA-Lesotho is in pursuant of the commitment to remain transparent, open and competitive in all procurement processes,” said the statement.
Although the MCA-Lesotho says it was cancelling the tender due to the high prices sources close to the matter say the cancellation had very little to do with the cost.
The decision to cancel the tender comes hardly a month after a leading international company that was bidding to supply the IDs, Iris Corporation, lodged an appeal against an earlier decision to disqualify it from the race.
Gemalto SA, a company also competing to supply the IDs, had appealed against a decision to award the tender to Iris Corporation alleging that the firm had violated procurement regulations.
Iris Corporation, which had scored the highest points during the adjudication process and was set to land the lucrative deal to produce ID cards for Lesotho, was in July disqualified after the second highest bidder Gemalto SA queried why it hosted Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in Malaysia while the adjudication process was still going on.
Gemalto SA argued that Iris’s actions in hosting a government delegation during the bid adjudication process amounted to corruption and was a deliberate attempt to influence the tender process.
Gemalto SA’s appeal was upheld by an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) resulting in Iris Corporation being disqualified.
Last month the MCA-Lesotho announced that it was inviting Gemalto SA for contract negotiations since it had been ranked second by the evaluation panel.
But in yet another twist to the saga, Iris Corporation then appealed against the disqualification, arguing that it had not tried to influence the outcome of the tender.
Now, a month after Iris Corporation’s appeal the MCA-Lesotho has cancelled the procurement process saying it is “as a result of unresponsiveness due to high prices”.
The MCA-Lesotho did not mention the bitter fight between the two companies when it cancelled the tender this week.
The ID contract is said to be worth US$20 million (M143 million).
The ID tender was first cancelled earlier this year after confidential information on bidders was leaked before the final report was sent to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in Washington, which finances the project.
Iris Corporation was not even among the companies that were shortlisted during the first tender adjudication process.
The company then came first after the tender was re-advertised and re-adjudicated. An MCA-Lesotho official, interviewed on condition of anonymity, said the actions by Iris Corporation to host a government delegation while the adjudication process was still on were “indefensible”.