Re­vised govt, Nikuv agree­ment hits an­other snag

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

THE sign­ing of a re­vised agree­ment be­tween gov­ern­ment and Nikuv In­ter­na­tional Projects (NIP) to re­sume the pro­duc­tion of pass­ports and na­tional iden­tity cards for Ba­sotho has hit a snag af­ter the shad­owy Is­raeli com­pany de­manded com­pen­sa­tion for the three months it was not pro­vid­ing the ser­vices.

Nikuv was con­tro­ver­sially granted the M300 mil­lion con­tract in 2012 with­out an open public ten­der amid al­le­ga­tions some Home Af­fairs min­istry of­fi­cials had been bribed to award the com­pany the lu­cra­tive deal. In ad­di­tion to the pro­duc­tion of IDS and e-pass­ports, Nikuv was also in charge of the coun­try’s au­to­mated bor­der con­trol sys­tem.

The Home Af­fairs min­istry sub­se­quently fell out with Nikuv af­ter the firm de­manded M34.7 mil­lion for “main­te­nance ser­vices” the com­pany claimed to have pro­vided from Fe­bru­ary to Au­gust last year and threat­en­ing to with­draw from the project if the money was not paid.

There­after, the min­istry sought and ob­tained an ur­gent High Court or­der to “in­ter­dict any pos­si­ble dis­rup­tion or sus­pen­sion of ser­vice” by NIP, while the is­sue was be­ing re­solved.

How­ever, NIP staff stopped pro- vid­ing their “ex­pert ser­vices”, com­pelling gov­ern­ment to in­def­i­nitely sus­pend the pro­duc­tion of the doc­u­ments.

Dur­ing the three month sus­pen­sion of ser­vices, Ba­sotho with­out pass­ports and na­tional iden­tity doc­u­ments were left stranded, with the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs say­ing it was look­ing for an “al­ter­na­tive com­pany” to take-over the project.

De­spite mul­ti­ple meet­ings to find a break­through, Nikuv con­tin­ues to in­sist it wants com­pen­sa­tion for losses the com­pany in­curred dur­ing the sus­pen­sion of ser­vices.

Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Joang Mo­lapo said ne­go­ti­a­tions with the com­pany were still on­go­ing and the re­vised con­tract would be signed be­tween the com­pany and gov­ern­ment as soon as the out­stand­ing is­sue has been re­solved.

Chief Mo­lapo said he was baf­fled by the com­pany’s de­mand for pay­ment for ser­vices not ren­dered.

“They want us to pay for the three months they were not at work, how­ever they will soon be com­ing with their lawyers and our ex­perts to fi­nalise the con­tract,” Chief Mo­lapo said.

“We fail to un­der­stand how they should be paid for their ab­sence.”

He, how­ever, said the ne­go­ti­a­tions the min­istry had with the com­pany to­wards bury­ing the hatchet and re­sum­ing op­er­a­tions had been suc­cess­ful.

“We wanted the op­er­a­tional con­trol of the sys­tem they were con­tacted to de­velop for us. We wanted to be able to make changes when need arises with­out con­sult­ing some­one in Is­rael,” he said.

“We de­manded full own­er­ship of the sys­tem, so that no one can con­trol the sys­tem from Is­rael or shut down when­ever they pleased. We were also seek­ing tech­no­log­i­cal trans­fer to take place be­tween our peo­ple.”

Nikuv was not read­ily avail­able for com­ment on the mat­ter af­ter at­tempts to get hold of the com­pany’s spokesper­son at the time of go­ing to print were fruit­less.

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