By: Kebba AF Touray
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Defense and Security has called for a parliamentary hearing into SEMLEX and Pristine Consulting contract for the production of the National Identification Cards.
The hearing seeks to obtain clarity from the matter and get the truth from the concerned Ministries, Permanent Secretaries, advicers, as well as the SEMLEX and Pristine Consulting and their respective Managers, Counsel and advisers.
Halifa Sallah, Vice Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Defense, said the hearing will enable the committee to review the constitution and other existing laws, regulations and contractual procedures, to identify and fill the gap in rendering public service.
Sallah said it will also enable the National Assembly in its role to properly identify and define laws and procedures properly situated and reformed, so as to promote national interest, sovereignty and also safeguard national and human security in awarding such contracts.
Sallah, who was laying the committee’s report before the legislature, explained that the government of the Gambia on 22nd September 2018 announced the resumption of the production of the national identification documents by the SEMLEX Group.
He said, “two claims were associated with the resumption of production of the national identification documents. The first alluded to the re-negotiation of a contract and the other alluded to the restoration of contract.”
He underscored that following this announcement, the Pristine Consulting, went public alleging that the government irregularly awarded SEMLEX the contract to produce biometric national identification as it (Pristine) is the legitimate contract for such service.
This allegation by Pristine, he said, has generated debate within and outside Gambia, thus increased demands for the veracity of the claims, thus the national assembly concurred and resolved that an investigation into the matter should be conducted.
He said, “the report presents the findings of the committee, with a view to establish whether the processes and procedures followed are in line with the constitution of the Gambia and all other existing laws, regulations and contractual procedures associated with private public partnership in rendering public service at public expense.”
He said findings form the Justice Ministry, indicates that the contact to produce the biometric identification card was signed between the government of the GAMBIA and SEMLEX, on 16th June 2016 for duration of five years.
He said the Ministry claimed that the contract was allegedly terminated on 24th August 2016, through an Executive Directive without proper legal procedures and against legal advice from the Ministry of Justice.
He further said that according to the document from the Interior Ministry, a contract to produce biometric identification documents was signed onn24th August 2009, between the government and Pristine Consulting, for a period of five years, starting from the day the contract was signed.
He however said that according to a document from the Interior Ministry, a new contract was signed on 4th May 2015, between the government and Pristine Consulting, to produce electronic birth registration system and certificates with the Ministry of Health and that the Interior Ministry only witnessed the signing of the contract but was not a signatory.
He said: “The committee hereby seeks the approval of the Assembly to implement its proposal, in concurrence with the legal opinion of the subject matter specialists, to undertake a robust parliamentary hearing into the SEMLEX and Pristine Consulting Contract for clarification on the issues raised with the relevant stakeholders”.
The request was approved by the Assembly while debate on the report was adjourned till further notice.