Gambia restores Semlex contract for biometric national identity documents

Gambia’s Minister of Justice Ba Tambadou has announced that a contract between the country’s government and Semlex to provide the technical infrastructure to produce biometric identity documents has been restored, The Point reports.

Semlex was originally awarded the contract in June, 2016, but the government terminated the contract shortly after, kicking off a year of consideration and a Ministerial Taskforce. Gambian-owned Pristine Consulting had argued that a contract signed in 2015 with the Ministry of Health for an electronic birth registration system was an extension of a contract it previously held with the Ministry of Interior for national ID cards.

The government at the time cancelled the contract with Semlex, and three separate legal opinions were sought and delivered, stating that the Pristine Consulting national ID contract had expired, and the contract with Semlex wrongfully terminated. The Gambian government changed following the first of the three legal opinions, with the election of President Adam Barrow.

“The implementation of the agreement has been delayed for various reasons independent from Semlex, which are mainly due to the past presidential elections and the set-up of a new Gambian government,” said Ralph Hajjar, Sales manager and commercial director of Semlex Group.

The Gambian government has incurred costs of over two billion Dalasis (US$21.2 million) in international arbitration from the wrongful termination, Tambadou said.

“Notwithstanding, and in consideration of the fact that the Government was still desirous of giving Pristine Consulting, as a Gambian owned company, a fair opportunity to compete with Semlex,” Tambadou argued, “the Government agreed, for strategic legal reasons, to conduct a restricted bidding process and invited Pristine and Semlex to submit bids for the production of national ID Cards.”

Pristine submitted a bid, while Semlex declined to do so, contending it had a valid contract. The three-person Ministerial Taskforce unanimously recommended the bidding process be canceled, and the original contract with Semlex restored.

“Our hands are tied on this occasion,” Tambadou stated.

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