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If the Kardashians bought biometric systems: South Africans bicker and battle over ABIS contract

If the Kardashians bought biometric systems: South Africans bicker and battle over ABIS contract

The South African government has posted a lengthy tart reply to corruption accusations made by the shadow Home Affairs minister involving a long-promised automated biometric information system.

The Department of Home Affairs this week accused MP Angel Khanyile of maliciously lying about payments for and progress in upgrading the Home Affairs national information system with a biometric identification system.

After five years, the ABIS project is incomplete except as a political cudgel.

Khanyile says “the poorest of the poor” are hurt because of this scandal. They cannot get valid IDs and suffer “non-functioning” government offices, something that could be fixed, presumably, with money not wasted on corrupt projects.

Home Affairs says the process has been flawed but the government has provided oversight. Its leaders accuse the shadow minister for Home Affairs of overstating those flaws. Government officials also say that she has been in numerous meetings about the problematic project and knows where their hands are tied contractually.

Indeed, the original 409 million South African Rand (USD$24.4M) contract, with information technology firm EOH Holdings, was corrupt, according to an outside forensic audit.

Khanyile, a member of the Democratic Alliance Party, accuses the ANC-led government of spending R450 million (USD$26.8M) on the ABIS, essentially for nothing.

Home Affairs has defended itself, saying that the government made contractually obligated milestone payments amounting to R280 million (USD$16.7M). That sum is accounted for in hardware, software and services in place after EOH backed out of the contract.

Home Affairs says in its response to Khanyile that EOH has withdrawn from all government contract work, but media reports indicate that van Coller very much would prefer to remain in that line. It is fighting to clean up its reputation to avoid getting blacklisted by governments.

The company blames the government for delays, a claim being argued in arbitration. It also is suing the government for R128 million (USD$7.6M) it feels it is still owed.

EOH CEO Stephen van Coller has said his predecessor operated corruptly. The firm is suing the ex-CEO and other executives for R6.4 billion (USD$380M) as a result.

Last spring, ID services vendor Idemia signed a six-month contract for R150 million (USD$8.9M) to complete the biometric information systems. It quickly asked for an extension in the contract through last October. Despite claims to the contrary, that contract has not yet been paid, according to Home Office’s statement.

NEC XON, which lost the reframed bid that went to Idemia, is suing the Department of Home Affairs because it lost out.

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