In February 2003, the Government of Ghana called for bids from suitably qualified international contractors, to supply and install a National Identification System (NIS). It is worth pointing out that the qualification criteria for Ghana's NIS bid required bidders to have completed at least two successful contracts involving the supply and installation of card and biometric systems of a similar nature within the past 4 years. In this respect, it may be of interest to note that the project references quoted by some of the bidders may not stand up to detailed scrutiny.
(1) HEWLETT PACKARD (HP) presented projects in Israel and Bulgaria as its references. The project in Israel for issuing new computerised ID cards was surrounded by controversy from the outset, and never actually reached the implementation stage. On 1st January 2004, it was reported in the Israeli business media that the Administrative Court in Jerusalem had annulled HP's win in the tender. The court cited serious technical failings in HP's bid, and a faulty decision-making process that had seen 10 out of 11 bids submitted being immediately disqualified, leaving HP's bid as the sole bid and therefore the 'winner'. In Bulgaria, the project being undertaken by HP does not include any AFIS, which is the core element of any modern identification management system, since it is the AFIS that enables digitised fingerprint records to be searched and matched. It is therefore not surprising that Printrak, the supplier of the AFIS that HP intends to use for the Gha! na project, does not quote Israel and Bulgaria among its commercial references.
(2) In the case of another short-listed bidder for the Ghana project, the Israeli company NIKUV, its AFIS is provided by Biolink, which is presented as a known provider of AFIS systems. However as a small company with a turnover of less that $3 million in 2002, one wonders to what extent the Biolink AFIS is truly tried and tested, since it is completely unknown to international AFIS systems experts. NIKUV's experience is in electoral systems in various African countries, rather than civil registration systems, and it does not own any of the products that it is proposing in its solution. Among the references provided by NIKUV is an electoral registration project in Nigeria, which in reality did not include any AFIS, but rather just provided a computerised register of voters.
3) A third bidder, the MARPLESS consortium, is yet to complete its first experience in this area, the HANIS identification system in South Africa. The NEC AFIS that is proposed by the consortium is widely recognised as a good system, but MARPLESS totally lacks the experience of leading an integrated operation such as the Ghana bid calls for.
4) THALES quotes its experience of providing identification solutions in the Ivory Coast and Cameroon, among others. These projects were undertaken some years ago, using old technologies, and fall outside the 4-year period required by the Ghana bid.
Much of the press comment on the Ghana bid has so far focused on the leading bidder, SAGEM, and its supposed problems with the NIS project in Nigeria. However there is no doubting SAGEM's global experience as the world number one in fingerprint-based biometrics. The question that should really be asked, is whether SAGEM's competitors in the Ghana NIS bid process can match up to the high standards required by the Government of Ghana. From the facts set out above, it would appear that project references of doubtful validity have been submitted, in order to enable some of them to appear to meet the qualification criteria. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.