Parliament’s Finance Committee is to put the controversial issue of the Nexbis border control system (BCS) before parliament to vote on whether to halt use of the project.
The MVR500 million (US$39 million) project finally moved ahead this year after a series high-profile court battles and delays that led Malaysia-based Nexbis to last year threaten legal action against the Maldivian government should it incur losses for the work already done on the project.
However, the Malaysia-based mobile security provider has come under scrutiny by political parties who claim that the project is detrimental to the state, while the Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC) has continuously alleged of corruption in the bidding process.
Nexbis has continued to dismiss accusations of corruption within its deal with the Maldives government.
The vote has been scheduled after Parliament’s Finance Committee earlier this month also revealed that the Maldivian government had agreed to waive taxes for Nexbis. The committee noted in a letter sent to President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan that there was a potential financial burden facing the state due to the BCS deal agreed with Nexbis.
Despite the allegations, the border control system is currently active at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) after a Supreme Court ruling in early September favouring Nexbis ended almost two years of efforts by the ACC to block the project.
Speaking about the BSC project, Majlis Finance Committee member Ahmed Hamza said today he believed parliament would halt the project as “most members” were of the impression the contract is not financially beneficial to the country.
“The nature of the contract means that both the government and Maldivian people will suffer heavily from a financial point of view,” Hamza told Minivan News today.
In September, the ACC informed the committee that the deal would cost the Maldives MVR 2.5 billion (US$162 million) in potential lost revenue over the lifetime of the contract.
A member of Parliament’s Finance Committee member told local media yesterday (December 18) that the project is “laden with corruption allegations” and could have been carried out at a much lesser cost.
When asked if there was a sufficient system to take over from Nexbis, Hamza revealed today that there was a “worry” within the immigration department that their own system will not be sufficient.
Furthermore, Hamza stated that there is a “possibility” that human trafficking could increase should the Nexbis contract be cancelled, and to combat this parliament will need to provide a “sufficient solution to deal with these problems”.
Under the ‘build operate and transfer’ (BOT) agreement with Nexbis, the government is obliged to pay Nexbis US$2 for every foreign passenger processed and US$15 for every work permit for the 20 year lifespan of the contract. Nexbis remains responsible for the upgrading, servicing and administration of the system.
Former Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid has expressed concern earlier this year over both the cost and necessity of the project, calculating that with continued growth in tourist numbers, Nexbis would be earning US$200 million in revenue over the 20 year lifespan of the agreement.
At five percent, royalties to the government would come to US$10 million, Shahid said, when there was little reason for the government not to be earning the revenue itself by operating a system given by a donor country.
“The option was there to establish the system for free,” stated ACC President Hassan Luthfee, revealing that the US government had offered a free system in 2009.
“Even the Indian government had offered to do it for free. On the other hand this could have been done for MVR2.3-2.5 million. So we can’t believe that this should be done at such a high cost,” Luthfee told the committee.
Minivan News today contacted Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali over the developments regarding the BCS agreement with Nexbis.
“I am not aware of any recent decisions from the parliament over this matter,” Dr Ali claimed, before declining to comment further.
Back in July, Dr Ali claimed that with the Maldives having signed up to conventions pledging to try and more effectively combat Transnational Organised Crime like human trafficking, new systems were needed to help meet these aims.
“From our own experience, we have found people being trafficked back into the country even after they have previously been deported,” he claimed at the time. ”A system like this should put a stop to that.”
Minivan News was also awaiting a response from Nexbis at the time of press.
Nexbis has previously claimed that allegations of corruption in its deal with the government was “politically motivated” and had “wrought irreparable damage to its reputation and brand name.”