MASERU — The coalition government decided to “lie in bed with the Devil” to save money by not cancelling the controversial ID tender, Home Affairs Minister Joang Molapo said on Tuesday.
Molapo was answering a question why government opted to continue to use Nikuv International Projects in the identity card and electronic passport production even after allegations of malpractice.
He said kicking out Nikuv would be throwing away money that had already been used for tendering and that had been paid to the company.
“Even though government was concerned about Nikuv’s involvement in the alleged malpractice, we were already in bed with the Devil. Better is the devil that you know than that you don’t,” Molapo said.
He said cancelling the multi-million Nikuv tender would mean waiting almost two more years to retender the project and finding a new company.
Molapo said that was not needed with the huge backlog in the production of passports.
“There was backlog of over 700 000 passports that were still to be produced. If government were to fire Nikuv and find a new company that number would double within the tendering process,” he said.
He however said the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences was still going on with its investigations and that those who will be found guilty will be prosecuted.
He said that the project has been rolled out in other districts.
“We are fully functional in other districts. Coordination seems to be well between all the stations.
“We have already had people who registered their births from one station and went on to apply for identity documents from another station.
“That went on without a problem because their birth information could be found from any station because the system is running well,” he said.
He said the challenge was however the large numbers of people coming for services.
“We are addressing a need that people have had for a very long time. Now whenever an office is opened to provide the service too many people come for the service at once,” he said.
“However we are applying our minds to ensure that we capacitate our stations so that more registrations and applications are taken in.”
He said that the ministry was almost ready to start the mass registration whereby mobile teams will move from across the country to get people registered.
The aim, he said, was to have most people registered in two years. There should be at least 73 field teams when the system is fully operational.
The ministry targets to have issued between 30 – 40 percent of the population with IDs by the end of the 2013/14 financial year.
But Molapo said at least 90 percent of the population should be registered and issued with identity documents
He said there has been a notable increase in the output since the services were launched early last month, an indication that the target can be met.
He added that if the project is a success, there will be less fraudulent operations.
“There is a huge problem of people acquiring fraudulent academic certificates. There is a big corrupt business of people claiming social grants they don’t deserve. Many still receive social grants for long dead relatives,” he said.
“If we have a proper record system, these issues will be dealt with. A major reason our banks are still reluctant to lend money to people is because there are no proper records of people and the absence of a credit bureau.”
He said about M600 million has been budgeted for the project.