By Sariba Manneh
The controversial Semlex deal for the production of biometric national identity cards should in fact end today, 19th July, 2023. This was revealed by the Director General of the Gambia Immigration Department, Mr Seedy M. Touray, in an exclusive interview with this paper in his office yesterday.
Touray said on 19th July, 2018 a five year ID Cards contract was made with SEMLEX, a Belgian firm to provide solutions to secure identification and authentication using biometric information.
“The contract with SEMLEX is supposed to end this month according to the contract agreement but right now they are at a very advanced stage of discussion, which I don’t want to disclose because it is above my level,” Touray said.
Touray explained that the cost of an ID is four hundred dalasi and the fifty dalasi is the cost of the form. From that four hundred dalasi 60 percent goes to SEMLEX and 40 percent goes to Gambia government.
An interview was sought from Mr Touray, to raise issues of delays in the issuance of ID cards due to a faulty machine, but the confident DG told Foroyaa that they are in right direction towards making the issuing of National Identity Cards easier for Gambians.
The DG was asked who bears the cost of maintenance of equipment used to produce the ID cards and operate the equipment, the Gambia Government or Semlex?
He said that the contract is (BOT) Build, Operate and Transfer. In accordance with the project contract, the operation is supposed to be done by the contractors but they are thinking of transition in which the government will have full ownership of the contract, and that is why their staff is trained so that in case there is a turnover of the contract, they will be able to handle it.
“We have Immigration officers who are trained simultaneously on how to operate and fix any mechanical problem the machines may have,” he boasted.
Access to ID cards is of concern to many Gambians and Foroyaa asked him how many centres produce ID cards in the country?
“We have fourteen centres in the country, namely, Banjul, Serrekunda, Bundung, Brikama, Gunjur, Sibanor, Jarra, Soma, Janjangburreh, Basse, Fatoto, Kaur, Farafenni, Kerewan and Barra; and three others are in the pipeline which will be in Kiang Sankandi, Brikama-Ba and Pirang.”