By Awa Bah

The Minister of Justice has informed deputies at the National Assembly (NA) that the termination of the contract between the Gambia Government and Semlex, a Belgian Company, was unlawful and that efforts are underway to restore it. The Minister gave this response to a question raised by the member for Serrekunda West, Madi Ceesay. In his question to the Minister in Tuesday’s sitting of the NA, the member demanded for answers regarding ongoing investigations against the Belgian Company on corruption and money laundering, by the Belgian government and further asked in a supplementary question, why Government still wants to award a contract for printing the national document of the country to a Company that is under investigation.

Unsatisfied with the minister’s response, the member rose and said that the minister’s response tantamount to insult; that the minister should be ready to provide answers to their questions.

In his response, the minister said the contract to Semlex was not awarded to them but restored; that they are waiting for the report from the investigation by the Belgian government; that when this new Government came into office, it found a situation where the former Government entered into an agreement with Semlex, for the production of the country’s national documents in 2016; that shortly after the it was executed, the former Government terminated the contract against the legal advice of the then Justice Minister at the time; that in September 2016, the ministry of justice adviced Government clearly stating that the manner in which the semlex contract was terminated was unlawful and poses as a legal liability; that in January 2017 following the change of Government, they were aware of the controversy surrounding Semlex’ activities on the continent and were also aware that Pristine Company was earlier engaged in the production of national identity cards; that they provided Pristine an equal chance to compete with Semlex; that three legal opinion supported the restoration of the contract through a restructured bidding process.

Pristine the Minister said was contested the agreement signed with the ministry of health, for the production of E-birth certificates, as an extension of the contract to produce identity cards with the ministry of interior.

That when the bidding of the contract was made, Semlex did not bid but instead demanded for their contract to be restored; that cancelling the bidding process would also incur no legal liability on the part of Government, because a bidding process is an invitation to offer third persons a service to Government; that unless Government accepts, there will be no bidding contract. The minister said it was unwise to award the contract to Pristine.

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