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Confusion over Chile’s biometric passport bidding process

Confusion over Chile’s biometric passport bidding process

The process of awarding contracts for biometric Chilean passports is a jumble of odd events and accusations of improprieties involving a number of international vendors, including China’s Aisino.

Aisino, an information-security firm, submitted the lowest bid proposal in a field of five competitors looking to make Chile’s biometric ID cards and passports. But alleged government irregularities have put the contract’s awarding in doubt.

According to news publisher Infobae, Aisino bid US$222 million. That decisively undercut bits of its competitors for the $525 million project: French-based Idemia, which bid $245 million; Maltese-registered ID Probe, $261 million; Telefónica Chile, $303 million; and German digital ID vendor Veridos, $379 million.

The government weighted bids in order to find the optimal bid, not necessarily the lowest one. When bidding opened, officials said price would make up 50 percent of their consideration.

However, by the close of bidding, Infobae reported, price was weighted 65 percent. Technical factors were weighted less and administrative factors slightly.

It is not clear if all vendors’ bids were filed knowing about that change. The new formula makes the project more lucrative to vendors that can afford (or that have the scale) to charge below-market rates.

Regardless, two complaints filed with the Chilean government, accused Aisino of “not meeting the technical and administrative requirements” set out in the original request, according to the publication.

There also are allegations that the government’s Identity Service Evaluation Commission of improperly allowing Telefónica and Veridos to bid.

It does not help matters that the European Union and the United States would rather not see a Chinese organization control critical identity infrastructure in a Western democracy.

The FBI last summer reported that it had found backdoor malware in the value-added tax software made by Aisino and by Baiwang.

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