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Two French companies in race to supply 12 million smart cards for National ID programme

Thales Has Quoted $14.38 Million And IDEMIA $14.61 Million. The Latter Had Run Into A Controversy Earlier For Being Awarded A Contract Without Competitive Bidding.

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Two French companies are in the race for the contract to supply 12 million smart cards for national identity cards as the government aims to replace the existing citizenship cards with such cards for official purposes.

Thales and IDEMIA are the two companies that participated in the bid and the selected bidder will be responsible for designing, manufacturing, supplying, delivering, testing and production support of multipurpose biometric smart cards, according to the Department of National ID and Civil Registration.

Their bids were opened on May 28 and evaluation is underway.

According to the details obtained by the Post, Thales is the lowest bidder which may make it the frontrunner for the contract. Thales Dis Singapore, the regional office of Thales, has quoted $14.38 million while the IDEMIA Identity and Security, France has quoted $14.61 million.

Jitendra Basnet, director general at the Department of National ID and Civil Registration, didn’t confirm the prices quoted by the two companies saying he was unaware about it.

“The evaluation committee is examining the bids,” he said.

According to the department, the bidding process was conducted under a single envelope system under which both technical and financial bids were enclosed in a single envelope.

No separate weightage has been given to technical and financial aspects of the bids during the evaluation.

“A company legally and technically qualified can win a contract if it is also the lowest bidder,” he said.

Public Procurement Act-2007 and related regulations do not have provision of two envelopes for bidding in order to supply goods to the public entity.

“A company which is eligible to participate in the bid, meets the technical specification criteria and also quotes the lowest price, is awarded a contract as per the law,” said Rajesh Kumar Thapa, director at the Public Procurement Monitoring Office.

As per the Public Procurement Regulations 2007, technical capacity; manufacturing records; technical specifications of goods; economic and financial capability; if the goods are to be installed, competency of the technician to be involved in the installation; guarantee to the effect that the goods to be supplied will smoothly operate for a specific period; provision of maintenance of goods and availability of services and spare parts are key criteria for eligibility and technical capacity of the bidder.

Basnet didn’t confirm in what stage the evaluation of bids of two French companies is undergoing.

Thales is involved in the areas of defense and security, digital identity and security, aerospace, space, transportation and market specific solutions. IDEMIA provides identity-related security services, and sells facial recognition and other biometric identification products and software to private companies and governments.

Kathmandu-based Waves Group Trading Pvt Ltd is the local agent of Thales. The company has been involved in supplying computer hardware and software to different governmental agencies. RR Group, another company has joined the bid as subcontractor for local IT and integration works.

IDEMIA is represented in Nepal by the Advantage Group.

Praveen Pradhan and Suman Shrestha are co-owners of Waves Trading Group while Rameshwor Thapa owns Advantage Group.

Basnet however said that he does not know the people associated with the bidders. “Irrespective of who the local agents are, we do things as per the law,” he told the Post.

IDEMIA has already delivered national ID cards, after winning the contract under a pilot programme.

It was chosen to deliver an end-to-end system encompassing registration of citizens’ data and biometric deduplication to ensure a unique ID is issued to each individual, in addition to the production and personalization of smart cards. It had delivered ID cards in 2018 for the pilot programme.

In 2019, the IDEMIA was also awarded a government contract for the National Identity Management Information System without competitive bidding and without having to submit its performance security bond in full. The decision to award the contract without competitive bidding had invited controversy as it was made in contravention of the existing public procurement laws.

The government had subsequently signed a $16 million contract to upgrade and manage the national identity card project with IDEMIA.

This time too IDEMIA had been the only company to bid for the contract to supply 12 million smart cards to be awarded by the Department of National ID and Civil Registration when the tender was issued first.

On May 7, the department then issued a re-tender after invalidating the initial tender notice because of a bid from a single company. Then these two companies submitted bids in the re-tender process.

As per the bid document, smart cards need to be delivered from six months to 22 months from the date of signing a contract.

Meanwhile, the government has been collecting personal details of people including biometric data. Even though the government had targeted to collect details of 10 million people in the current fiscal year, it has been able to collect details of just three million people due to disturbances caused by the Covid-19 lockdowns, according to the department.

The government plans to introduce national ID cards with personal and biometric details of citizens with unique identification numbers. The card is to become a key basis for the delivery of various government services and replace the existing citizenship card. The biometric smart card, according to the department, will have multiple applications and can be read by officials using highly secure terminals, according to officials.

Along with the arrival of cards, the government had planned to issue cards to those whose details have been collected. The department is scheduled to receive two million cards within six months after signing the contract.

“We can distribute the new ID cards as quickly as the cards are received,” said Basnet. “We will distribute the cards to those who were enrolled in the system first.”

In November 2018, the first national identity card had been given to the then 101-year-old Bhagawati Devi Bhandari of Phidim Municipality, Panchthar to inaugurate the programme.

As many as 117,000 cards have been issued so far.