Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday revealed to the Parliament's Finance Committee that the State could incur losses worth MVR2.5 billion due to the way the establishment of Border Control System (BCS) has been awarded to Malaysia's Nexbis Limited.
Sharing the details of the corruption laden BCS project with the Finance Committee, ACC President Hassan Luthfee said that the US government had offered to establish the system for free. On that note he added that the State was incurring major losses for a project that could have been implemented with zero cost.
"The option was there to establish the system for free. 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," ACC President explained.
It is believed that Nexbis had been awarded the project for MVR500 million.
According to the presentation given to the Finance Committee by the ACC, several processes in awarding the project had gone in violation of the set policies. The presentation alleged that the announcement and evaluation of the project had been carried out under questionable circumstances. To that end, the proposal of the project and the subsequent bidding process had been carried out in violation of the declared protocols of the National Planning Council (NPC). ACC also alleged that the government had failed to carry out a study in relation to the border control system.
"The National Planning Council's protocols say that anything passed by the council cannot be changed by any other relevant institution unless it is sanctioned by the Council itself or the ministerial cabinet. But without following the said two protocols, Immigration had made major changes to the proposal," ACC's investigation officer Mohamed Sodig detailed.
He further revealed that the US government had held official discussions with the Maldivian government over the free establishment of a BCS back in 2009. However, there had been no follow ups made subsequent to the discussions, ACC said.
ACC also said that though the document submitted to the NPC by the Immigration Department to establish a modern BCS in the Maldives had originally contained 13 modules, major changes had been brought to the proposal later. The ACC's investigation had discovered that six modules had been omitted when the project had been opened for bidding.
In addition, the presentation also alleged that when the NPC had requested the Finance Ministry to find interested parties to establish the BCS in the Maldives through the bidding process, the actions of the Bid Evaluation Committee had also been dubious. ACC said that the evaluation conditions and criteria had been unclear, while the lowest criteria of the short listed parties out of the seven that had submitted interest in the project had been indistinct.
The Commission explained that though the bid of Nexbis had been originally declared valid for 90 days, by the time the price proposals were opened the Nexbis' proposal had expired.
"In that situation we tried to determine whether the validity of the proposal or bid of Nexbis had been extended. However, we failed to find a single document that had done so. So we discovered that Nexbis' bid had been null and void even when the price bids were opened. However, marks had been given for Nexbis' price bid," Sodig detailed.
According to the ACC, one of the minutes indicated that the then government had held a sit-down over the establishment of a BCS in Maldives on a Friday during prayer time and hence questioned the authenticity of the minutes. The day was Friday, October 15, 2010 while the meeting had taken place between 11:00am and 2:00pm, ACC revealed.
"Its highly suspicious when a meeting takes place during Friday prayer time in a 100 percent Muslim country. So from that point forth we knew that the preparation of the minutes had been questionable," Sodig said.
ACC further alleged that while the BCS agreement had been signed on October 17, 2010 the decision for taxes had also been illegitimate. To that end, ACC explained that the decision to charge USD2 from every foreign passenger and USD15 for every visa card was in violation of Article 97 of the constitution. The Article stipulates that the government can only charge taxes through a law passed by the Parliament. However, such a law had not been passed.