Revised govt, Nikuv agreement hits another snag
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.