MASERU — The home affairs principal secretary says there is nothing wrong in using a selective tender process to identify firms that could produce Lesotho’s e-passports.
Rets’elisitsoe Khetsi said because the government was in a hurry to sort out the passport crisis an open tender process would have wasted a “lot of time”.
Khetsi said they resorted to the selective tender process because he wanted an immediate solution to the passport crisis.
He confirmed that bids from selected companies that tendered to make the e-passport were opened last Tuesday.
If all goes well, Khetsi said, Lesotho will start issuing e-passports in April.
“The law does not prohibit me from engaging in selective tendering and I assure you that I was within the scope of the procurement regulations,” Khetsi said.
The Lesotho Times last week reported that the government had used a selective tender process for the multimillion maloti contract.
Khetsi said the five companies that submitted their bids had been invited because they were the ones that first approached the ministry with proposals to make the e-passports.
“The law (Public Procurement Regulations 2007) allows me to do selective tendering as I did especially when things are pressing.”
However, the Public Procurement Regulations of 2007 provide that in a selective tender all firms with the required capacities should be invited.
“In carrying out a limited tender, the Unit shall simultaneously send an invitation to tender to all firms with capacity to form the contract and thereby providing an equal opportunity to submit a tender,” reads the law.
The regulations also state that limited tendering shall only be made “where the number of bodies capable of executing complicated goods, works or services requiring high qualifications, expertise, equipment and technology is limited.”
Selective tendering can also only be made “where the requirement can only be secured from the single source” perhaps “due to ownership of exclusive design rights or patents”.
There are hundreds of companies in the world that can make e-passports.
There is no evidence that the five companies invited by the home affairs ministry to tender are covered by the requirements stipulated in the procurement regulations.
Khetsi said: “We invited these five companies because they were the ones that approached first with their proposals and we had no time to go searching for other companies,” he said.
“That would be a waste of time. I did not have time go around the world searching for companies with equal expertise to produce e-passports and neither did I have time for open tendering.”
Khetsi also said the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s identity card project had only 10 companies tendering but the process took a long time.
“Like what happened with the ID project, we would have to evaluate each and every tender to ascertain which one would qualify and that would waste our time,” he said.
Companies that have submitted their bids are from Germany, Israel, France and Malaysia.
Khetsi also said it was misleading to say that the ministry’s top officials went to Botswana last week to meet representatives of Giescke & Devrient (G&D), a Germany company that has submitted its tender for the contract to make Lesotho’s new passports.
G&D recently won a contract to supply Botswana with 600 000 e-passports and is said to be leading the race for the Lesotho contract.
Khetsi said they had gone to meet Botswana’s home affairs officials to learn how they had solved their own passport problems.
That one of the companies that was invited to submit a tender is currently making passports for Botswana is coincidental, he said.
“We learned a lot during that trip and we have seen how we can tighten the security of our passport,” he said.
“We were not there to meet any company but home affairs officials who showed us how they dealt with their own passport problems.”
Khetsi said that the evaluation of companies that have tendered is yet to take place but insisted that no government official, including himself, would have any influence in the outcome.
“We are going to contract a group of independent experts who will evaluate these tenders and I am not going to do it myself because it is a work of IT experts and others who deal with such issues,” he said.
“I cannot be expected to choose a certain company and give it a contract when I know nothing about the technical requirements of that job.”