General News of Wed, 7 Jan 20040

Sagem & National ID: Why Ghana Musts learn from Nigeria

Investigations into the Nigerian National Identification Card bid have turned-out numerous reasons why the handlers of Ghana’s National ID Card bid ought to be minded by the experience of Abuja.

Findings by this reporter show worrying similarities between Ghana’s bid process and the Nigerian scenario, with the company expected to be announced as a winner of the $60 million project, SAGEM. S. A. of France, posing the biggest worry.

SAGEM is in the Ghanaian race with pro-Visions Consultant Ltd, Morpless Consortium, I.C.S Olivert, Dansman Consultancy Services Ltd, Kivin Imex Technology, Nip-Nikuv International project Ltd, HP and Thales Identification, the other French company suspected to be related to SAGEM in the race (see details of the opening report, bid security and quotations)

Nigerian experts warned that since the favoured company in Ghana’s bidding process, SAGEM S. A. of France, secured the project in Abuja, the process in Nigeria has delayed much to the chagrin of some Nigerian leaders.

SAGEM secured the Nigeria bid despite placing 5th in the bid process and despite its failure to qualify in two required areas of the bid process, as well as part qualification for the other two areas. It only qualified fully for systems integration.

The first four top bids came from Chams Consortium, Crest Consortium, NSPMC Consortium and Officetron Ltd.

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A copy of the Final Report of the Consultants for the Nigerian National I. D. Programme of the bids available to this reporter, noted that though SAGEM is undoubtedly “one of the best AFIS companies, much of its reputation derive from the performance of its criminal justice systems”.

In recent times, said the report authored by a team led by Prof. V. Olunloyo, “civilian AFIS systems have also been delivered by SAGEM and when integrated with a card production and personalisation subsystem, one ends up with the type of validated ID Card system envisaged by the DNCR”.

The report noted that validated National ID Card systems are relatively new products and it is for this reason that the experience of other countries with SAGEM Installations need to be given some consideration. It should also be noted that for jumbo-sized AFIS systems, like the one contracted by DNCR, most of the problems do not surface until the database is significantly populated and well into the maintenance period of the installation…

“It is for these reasons that we need, in a pro-active context, to review some of the technical and logistic problems encountered by SAGEM AFIS clients over the last five years”, the report said, detailing out significant failures in SAGEM’s AFIS system across the globe.

Despite the final evaluation report, SAGEM secured the over-bloated $215 million bid and a N2 billion component from the Nigerian Government, following diplomatic pressures from Paris on Abuja, and a promise to cancel debts owed France by Nigeria. In the end Nigeria did not even get the debts cancelled.

But the award of the contract to SAGEM did not go down well with the Americans, who felt that the winners, CHAMS Consortium, which included US Company Polaroid Corporation, had not been treated fairly.

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Consequently, Mr Miguel Pardo De Zela of the US Embassy complained that American companies had been out-schemed over several contracts under the Obasanjo administration.

Incidentally, SAGEM which had almost no track record of solely handling national ID card bids at the time it won the Nigerian bid despite being one of the world’s four companies with copyright over the AFIS, had used Polaroid to deliver on its contracts in the Philippines, Honduras and Columbia. It had mostly been part of consortiums in most of its contracts worldwide, including the UK and Hong Kong where it partnered Morpho in AFIS installations.

The other companies with copyright over the AFIS are German Company Dermalog, which was also part of the CHAMS Consortium, NEC and Printrak, both of the US. While the international computer magazine PC Market reported in its May 1, 1995 edition that SAGEM-Morpho AFIS installations were down due to technical problems leading to litigation after the partners refused to hand over optical disks on which the fingerprints were stored, the installation in Hong Kong was shut down due to technical problems and lack of support, reports indicate.

The bid winners, CHAMS Consortium, also filed a writ in the Abuja Federal High Court in suit FHC/ABJM/2002 (a copy of which is available to this reporter) against the Obasanjo administration and the Minister of Internal Affairs over the issue. The case is currently being negotiated between the two parties, Concord learnt in Abuja.

At the time of the Nigerian bid also, Polaroid had handled contracts in Saudi Arabia, Mexico, China, Eritrea and Cameroon, among other places.

The Nigerian contract, Concord learnt, was the first time SAGEM solely handled a contract with more than two million people and its record was not worth shouting about, some Nigerian experts argue.

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Speaking to this reporter in his office at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) on Victoria Island, Lagos, Professor V.S.O. Olunloyo, who resigned over the ID card process following the award of the contract to SAGEM, admitted that the evaluation report ranked the French Company fifth.

He said the company had failed in the key areas and did not have a field team on the ground. (More on the interview later.)

There were also allegations of impropriety over the award of the bid to SAGEM by some senators.

The Chairman of the Nigerian Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Iddris Abubakar, was reported as having said that there were “cutting of corners” in the award of the contract.

Interestingly, the fear of some Nigerians that SAGEM would fail to deliver by the delivery date is turning out to be true.

Whilst the National ID cards were expected to be ready for last April’s elections which saw Obasanjo being returned into office, after earlier postponements, Nigerians have no idea as to when exactly they would receive their ID cards.

The data of the reported 60 million people registered nationwide is yet to even be entered into a database for cross-checking for double registration, misidentification, among others, officials of the Department of National Civic Registration (DNCR) told this reporter in Abuja. The DNCR is the main agency that handled the fieldwork for SAGEM.

Deputy Information Minister and co-ordinator of the Ghanaian bid process, Mr Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, has, however, pledged that his bidding team would do a thorough job of the task before him and that he would ensure Ghana gets value for money.

This story was first published in the Gye Nyame Concord on Monday June 23, 2003 and was repeated in the same paper this week following developments on the Nigerian National ID, which vindicates this publication and others on the National ID by our Editor. - al_oggbamey@hotmail.com

Source: ALFRED OGBAMEY IN ABUJA for GYE NYAME CONCORD

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