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NEC Africa takes South African government to court over biometric contract awarded to Idemia

NEC Africa takes South African government to court over biometric contract awarded to Idemia

NEC Africa is taking South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and technology services provider EOH to court to have a multimillion-dollar biometrics contract with Idemia set aside, ITWeb reports.

Idemia was awarded a contract, first as a subcontractor to EOH and then as its replacement, after EOH won the contract for 400 million Rand (roughly US$26.6 million) to provide an automated biometric identification system (ABIS). NEC Africa also participated in the contract’s bidding process, along with Accenture SA and Ernst & Young Advisory Services.

DHA is seeking to migrate its Home Affairs National Identification System database with photos and fingerprint biometrics to a new ABIS.

In court documents seen by ITWeb, NEC Africa alleges that the master service agreement between DHA and EOH Mthombo is unconstitutional and should be set aside, or that alternatively the contract to Idemia should be set aside, with all payments declared unlawful and refunded.

A forensic report completed in May of last year by Auditor Nexia SAB&T, shortly after Idemia took over the contract, said the EOH contract was the result of an illicit scheme between the company and senior staffers at the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).

NEC Africa says there is “no dispute” that the genesis of the current contracts was unlawful.

DHA does not oppose the repayments, but wants to keep the hardware and software procured for the biometric system. EOH and Idemia say the filing is motivated by NEC Africa’s commercial interest.

Further, Idemia Country Manager for South Africa says the project is more than 90 percent finished.

“The two outstanding work streams relate to testing and implementation. These two work streams could not be completed due to unavailability of key DHA resources,” he says in an affidavit, according to ITWeb.

“Idemia substantially performed its obligations in terms of the amended and restated master turnkey solutions agreement between Idemia and the DHA. Further, Idemia would have completed the implementation of ABIS by the time this application is determined.”

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