ZIMBABWE has hired the services of a Lithuanian printing company, Garsu Pasaulis (GP), to produce national identity documents (IDs) to ease current shortages, but human rights representatives say they will be monitoring the developments closely.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe revealed the newly hired company while responding to questions from Members of Parliament , and assured that the move will address the current backlog.
“A private company was contracted to take over the production of IDs. This was necessitated by challenges our Government is facing with regards to foreign currency issues,” he said.
Last year, Kyrgyzstan authorities fired their head of Passport Agency after an investigation into a fraudulent tender procedure revealed that Garsu Pasaulis won the US$13,4 tender although not meeting tender requirements, and Balkan media reported extensively on the matter.
The US$13,4 million was found to be highly inflated as three other bidders offered to do the jon for far less. All in all, five companies, including two from Germany and one from France, Lithuania and Kazakhstan each, took part in the tender.
Eurasia media including the Balkan Times reported extensively on the tender scam by Garsu Pasaulis in 2019, saying an analysis of dozens of tender documents showed that the company’s bid — which fell short of qualifications — was treated “extremely leniently by the commission in charge of evaluating it, which consisted largely of State Registry Service officials,” reads a report on the scam.
The report continues: “Not only did the commission overlook Garsu Pasaulis’s failure to meet certain requirements — while disqualifying its main competitor on similar grounds — it also failed to evaluate the company’s bid on an important metric on which it would have fallen even further short.
“The documents further show that Garsu Pasaulis’s offer would result in higher passport prices for citizens.
“The ownership of Garsu Pasaulis (shows that) a Belgian company and Belgian citizen (are) behind it. Both are reportedly under investigation in Belgium and the Comoros Islands for corruption involving passport contracts in the DR Congo and the illegal sale of identification documents.”
Following complaints from losing companies, three senior government technocrats were arrested in April 2019. They were charged with conspiring with the Lithuanian company, Garsų Pasaulis.
The tender was annulled amid criminal investigations.
And it is the non-disclosure by Kazembe that has set tongues wagging. Addressing the MPs, Kazembe never said how much the Zimbabwe Government will pay for the job, or which other bidders were in the running and how the winning bid was selected, if at all any bidding took place.
“As you would appreciate, (for) our IDs and passports, we use a lot of consumables which are imported but that issue will become history very soon because the company that was contracted is seized with the matter,” Kazembe said.
“In fact, only today we received a progress report to the effect that they are busy procuring all the required consumables to deal with the backlog of IDs.”
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson Elasto Mugwadi applauded the move but said his body would monitor the developments closely as the issue involved the issuance of IDs, a fundamental right.
“We will be monitoring what the minister said closely because national identification documents are a fundamental right,” he said.
The State-owned Sunday Mail newspaper reports that Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Aaron Nhepera said Cabinet had approved the deal.
Again, Nhepera never revealed how much the deal would cost the nation, of if any bids had been considered before arriving at the “winner”.
“We are still in talks with the company. There are contracts which still need to be signed, but I can confirm that Cabinet has approved,” Nhepera said.
“That’s been how our Government works, sadly,” a prominent lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe told HOURLYHITS.COM, on condition of anonymity. “Government gives multimillion dollar tenders to shady, little-known companies from little-known countries so that the public has less information to unmask the scam.
“To make it worse, citizens rarely converge on these serious issues of corruption and instead spend time chasing after distractions which the same corrupt Government throws at us,” said the UZ academic.
Garsų Pasaulis, UAB is one of the largest printing-houses in Lithuania and in the Baltic States. The company’s profile says it has been in operation since 1994. □