By Kebba Jeffang
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice Aboubacarr Tambadou, said Government has agreed to restore the 2016 contract of Semlex, to produce National Identity Cards.
“After a whole year of consideration of this matter, culminating with the establishment of a Ministerial Task Force, we showed the seriousness with which this Government has taken up this issue. Government has decided to recognise and restore the June contract with Semlex which was purportedly terminated by the previous Government, shortly after the contract was executed by the Ministry of Interior in 2016,” he told journalists at a recent press conference.
He said the principal reason for such a decision was in recognition of the fact that a Gambian owned Company Pristine Consulting, was also involved in the activity; that Pristine Consulting’s contract expired in 2014. He however said the Gambian owned Company disputed the expiration claim arguing that their contract with the ministry of health on the E-Birth Registration System that was signed in 2015, was an extension of the contract with the Ministry of Interior for the production of National ID Cards.
Tambadou said the three man Ministerial Task Force led by Finance Minister Amadou Sanneh, supported by himself and the Information Minister, engaged in consultation before arriving at such a decision. According to him, three separate legal opinions were prepared by the Ministry of Justice to review the matter; that three state lawyers and some international lawyers have reviewed the issue before a final review was held in September 2017, which concluded thus:
“That the contract with Pristine Consulting contract expired in 2014, and the termination of Semlex Company was wrong and in breach of the contract term. Notwithstanding, a consideration of the fact that Government was still desirous of providing Pristine Consulting as a Gambian owned Company, a fair opportunity to compete with Semlex, Government agreed to conduct a restricted bidding process and invited both Companies to submit bids for the production of the ID Cards,” the Minister said; that after consultation with their respective staff, both Pristine and Semlex were contacted to submit their bids. He however said Semlex submitted their bid and Pristine did not, maintaining their position that they still have a valid contract with Government. “At this point, the ministerial task force had to consider its options,” he said.
He said they could have proceeded with the bidding process and potentially award the contract to Pristine and face the international arbitration proceedings with all the legal and financial costs. But said they were aware that their position is weak as a Government.
Meanwhile, according to him, the second option was to cancel the bidding process and recognize and restore the June 2016 contract with Semlex, without legal consequences for the cancellation of the bidding process.
Consequently, he said, the Task Force unanimously chose to recommend to cabinet, the second option which was approved.