Wed, 07 Jan 2004 General News

Scandal Rocks National ID Card Project

By ALFRED OGBAMEY for GYE NYAME CONCORD ([email protected])

Main bidder in Ghanaian project caught in bribery mess in Abuja GHANA’S $60 MILLION National Identification Card bid may be in serious jeopardy, following confirmation that the No. 2 company in the yet-to-be-announced bid results, SAGEM S. A. of France, has been caught in a web of corruption in Abuja, over which Nigerian strongman, President Olusegun Obasanjo, has sacked some ministers.

In all seven people, including Labour Minister Hussain Akwanga and former Internal Affairs Ministers, Sunday Afolabi and Mahmud Shatta, have been accused of taking bribes in the national ID card project.

“The contract for the implementation of the national identity card scheme was awarded to SAGEM of France after due process for the sum of $214m”, a statement from Nigeria’s Independent Corrupt Practices Commission said.

The statement noted that “it was, however, discovered that SAGEM agents in Nigeria, including the regional area manager for identification systems, Jean Pierre Delarue, a Frenchman, and Niyi Adelagun, organised and executed a scheme through which bribes were distributed to these top government officials” to influence the award of the contract.

Gye Nyame Concord can reveal that SAGEM has been selected as the No. 2 most favoured company after HP to handle Ghana’s $60 million national ID card project.

It was, until a fortnight ago, expected by suspicious eyes within the industry to eventually ease out the ‘numero un’ and tuck the contract away by the time of the formal announcement of the award.

Official announcement of the result is yet to be made though.

SAGEM is in the Ghanaian race with Pro-Visions Consultant Ltd, Morpless Consortium, I.C.S Olivert, Dansman Consultancy Services Ltd, Kivin Imex Technology, Nip-Nikuv International Project Ltd, HP and Thales Identification, another French company suspected to be related to it.

This paper earlier this year reported disturbing signals that suggested a possible massaging of Ghana’s ID card bid contract to SAGEM.(see SAGEM & NATIONAL ID CARD SAGA and refer to NATIONAL ID SCANDAL AVAILABLE ON ghanaweb of 18/6/2003).

At the time, local and international investigations in Lagos and Abuja revealed that the bid requirements in Ghana seemed tailor made to suit the offers that SAGEM provided in its solution to Nigeria’s national ID card bid.

The bidding requirement requested almost the exact solution that SAGEM, the French Automatic Fingerprint Integrated System (AFIS) provider, offered in Nigeria.

Investigations by this reporter in Abuja and Lagos in May this year suggested that Ghana had requested the bid requirement (Request For Proposal (RFP) as the Nigerians called theirs) to serve as a guide to Ghana’s bid requirement.

The RFP, which is available to this reporter, was the perfect answer to the solution that SAGEM offered in its bid to win the Nigerian RFP (also available to this paper) almost two years ago, despite technological changes in the ID card industry.

The tailoring seems to have been done despite the fact that SAGEM ranked fifth in the Nigerian bid upon evaluation of its bid. Eventually though, it secured the bid through the back door, landing the Nigerian government in court for disregarding its own laid-down bid process and awarding the contract to it.

But the award of the contract to SAGEM did not go down well with the Americans, who felt that the winners, CHAMS Consortium, which included US Company Polaroid Corporation, had not been treated fairly.

Incidentally, SAGEM which had almost no track record of solely handling national ID card bids at the time it won the Nigerian bid despite being one of the world’s four companies with copyright over the AFIS had used Polaroid to deliver on its contract in the Philippines, Honduras and Columbia.

Before then, it had mostly been part of consortiums in most of its contracts worldwide, including the UK and Hong Kong where it partnered Morpho in AFIS installations.

The other companies with copyright over the AFIS are German Company Dermalog, which was also part of the CHAMS Consortium, NEC and Printrak, both of the US.

Concord also learnt that SAGEM also secured the over-bloated Nigerian bid as a result of what sources in the Nigerian Senate, Department of National Civic Registration (DNCR), National Population Commission and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) all in Abuja told this reporter, were diplomatic pressures from Paris on Abuja and a promise to cancel debts owed France by Nigeria. In the end Nigeria did not even get the debt cancelled.

The French company also secured the bid despite placing fifth in the bid process and despite its failure to qualify in two required areas of the bid process as well as part-qualification for two other key areas.

The first four top bids came from Chams Consortium, Crest Consortium, NSPMC Consortium and Officetron Ltd.