Despite the legal complications surrounding the deal, the Nexbis border control project has completed its first phase, with Rf10 million’s (US$650,000) worth of installation work having been finished, according to Sun Online.
The project involves the installation of an electronic border gate system in Male’s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), bringing technological upgrades such as facial recognition, fingerprint identification and e-gates to the Maldives.
Assistant Controllerof the Department of Immigration and Emigration Ibrahim Ashraf confirmed to Minivan News that “the first phase is, to a certain extent, finished.”
The Rf500 million (US$39 million) deal had been brought to standstill by the High Court earlier this month in the latest in a series of delays which have led the Malaysian firm to threaten legal action against the Maldivian government should it incur losses for the work already done on the project.
Sun reported a source as saying that there were three phases in the contract with Nexbis. The second phase involves the installation of further systems for an online visa service while the third phase would include improving passport mechanism services.
The deal ran into trouble soon after it was awarded in 2010, with the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) demanding the project be terminated and re-tendered, citing allegations of corruption in the bidding process.
Legal suit was filed in November 2011 after the government decided to begin work on the project against the ACC’s advice. The subsequent decision by the Civil Court was that the ACC did not have the authority to order the Department of Immigration and Emigration to stop the project.
Subsequent appeals to the High Court earlier this month resulted in an injunction against any further work until the case had been resolved. At the time, the ACC had expressed concern that the project could be completed before the conclusion of the High Court case.
Ashraf said that staff training for the new system was planned for May 10 but had been cancelled due to the injunction.
Hassan Luthfee, President of the ACC, said that the commission had not investigated into the work’s current progress but believed the work on the first phase had been completed prior to the High Court injunction, as did Ashraf. Luthfee said the ACC had appealed to the court to “delineate” the role of the ACC and expected a verdict by the end of this month.
According to the Anti-Corruption Act (Act No. 13/2008) under which the ACC was established, following any inquiry and investigation the commission is empowered to forward the case to the Prosecutor General for prosecution. It is also granted the power to order the institution in question to correct any failures in management that may have led to corrupt practices.
Part of the roles and responsibilities of the ACC, as defined in the constitution, is “to perform any additional duties or functions specifically provided by law for the prevention of corruption.” The ACC’s objections to the Nexbis deal were based on its belief that the bidding process was flawed.
A source at the immigration department at the time of the ACC’s initial complaint in 2010 claimed that it was the finance ministry which evaluated all the bids. The same source also argued that the desire within the ACC to stop the project could have been politically motivated.
The ACC filed a suit against the Home Ministry in January, citing “unlawful practices” in the tender process while evaluating bids to set up partitions in the ministry’s office.