7 Nov 2008

THROWN out by the Ugandan government on grounds of corruption, a South African firm has landed a multi-billion-shilling deal in Tanzania to produce Smartcard driving licences. 

The Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) has embraced Face Technologies of South Africa to undertake the project, despite the fact that quotations of the firm have raised eyebrows among local information technology experts. 

According to informed sources, the company is charging $21.53 (approximately 25,200/-) per Smartcard driving licence but local experts claim that the amount is more than double the real cost. 

Reports from Uganda said the firm, established six years ago, was ordered to pack its bags from Kampala because it had inflated the cost for a similar project in the country. 

Media reports quoting Uganda’s internal affairs ministry said that Face Technologies quoted $97m while the ministry’s own evaluation had put the cost at $56m. 

In addition, Uganda’s Inspector-General of Government reported that the tender submitted in 2006 by the South African company was tainted with corruption. 

The company has since resorted to court for remedy, but Kampala has reportedly ignored the case. 

Meanwhile, TRA Commissioner General Harry Kitillya, has affirmed to THISDAY that the Smartcard driving licences tender, awarded to Face Technologies in 2006, is on track and that the authority and the Tanzania Police Force would soon introduce the licences to local motorists. 

Kitillya said yesterday that preparations for the licences had reached a final stage but he declined to mention the date for the kick-off of the exercise. 

He dismissed allegations that the project had stalled because the government intended to integrate it with the national identity card project. 

’’We talked to [Dickson] Mwaimu regarding integration of the project into the national identity card project but he was of the opinion that we proceed,’’ Kitillya said. 

Mwaimu is chief executive officer of the Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency. 

The South African company is also said to be vying for the national identity cards project. 

A number of local and international companies submitted bids for the computerised drivers licence system tender which was based on a build, operate and transfer arrangement in 2006. 

Those companies included Contec Global Limited, Global Enterprises Technologies, Techno Brain Limited, Electronics Corporation of India Limited & AKS Smart Card System Limited, Shivacom Limited, Quality Group Limited, Simba Technology (T) Limited, Afsat Communication (T) Limited & G Fischer Consulting (Pyt) Limited, 3i Infotech Limited and Starten Limited & LR Group Limited. 

The South African company’s Managing Director, Serfies Sorfontein, and Tshepo Boikanyo, General Manager of its holding company Arivia, did not respond to several mails sent by THISDAY over the past fortnight. 

On its website, however, the company has posted its TRA car registration computerisation system and Smartcard driving licences as projects that have been completed successfully. 

’’Face Technologies has become arivia.kom’s human face of information technology in Africa. The subsidiary is active in 11 African countries and gained major new public sector contracts on the continent in the past two years,’’ said the announcement. 

Since its establishment in 2002, the company claims it has won several tenders which included a drivers’ licence system for Namibia, traffic information systems for Malawi and Zambia, motor vehicle registration system for Tanzania and a national social security fund system and police identification systems for Uganda. 

In its court plea to Uganda’s Commercial Court, Face Technologies is seeking a $23m payment as compensation and damages for the alleged breach of contract. 

According to the suit documents, the firm claims it spent a lot of funds before the project was suspended in February 2006 by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) on orders of the Inspector General of Government (IGG).The firm claims it had started rolling out the project after carrying out a feasibility study . 

The project was suspended following a complaint from one of the bidders, Contec Global, which accused UBOS of flouting the laws in awarding the deal to Face Technologies.

SOURCE: This Day


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