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Why is a company investigated for corruption in 14 countries being awarded contract by Finance Ministry?

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This is to bring to the attention of the Federal Government, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Nigerian public the corrupt handling of a bid process by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning leading to the award of a revenue collection contract for the Federal Government to a foreign company, SICPA SA, which is currently undergoing investigation for bribery, corruption and economic crimes in over 14 different countries, including Egypt, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Senegal, Vietnam, Venezuela, Ukraine, Columbia and Brazil. The contract in question is the Procurement and Development of an Electronic Tax Stamp and System for Tobacco and Alcoholic Beverages and Other Excisable Products under the Finance Ministry’s tax and anti-contraband programme.

SICPA SA is a global provider of security inks as well as secured identification, traceability and authentication solutions with its headquarters in Prilly, Switzerland. It began operations in Nigeria in 2016. On various occasions the company has been indicted for heavily bribing government officials for contracts in the various countries where it operates. Moreover, Swiss security agents were said to have conducted a search on the company’s headquarters in Switzerland in 2016.

According to the Ministry sources, top officials in the Ministry violated the principle of first come, first served in the award of the contract by hijacking a Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative of a Washington DC, United States of America-based company, Kibo Laboratories, in favour of SICPA SA, in spite of the law regulating all PPP procurement clearly stating that contracts should be awarded on such basis.

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Before SICPA SA came into the fray in 2016, Kibo LLC had actually submitted an unsolicited proposal to the Federal Ministry of Finance, under the erstwhile Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, for the Procurement and Development of an Electronic Tax Stamp and System for Tobacco and Alcoholic Beverages and Other Excisable Products in compliance with the Ministry’s tax and anti-contraband programme.

However, in June 2017, the Federal Ministry of Finance invited both SICPA SA and Kibo Laboratories to Nigeria to make presentations of their individual companies’ Automated Security Solutions of Track and Trace Systems to be deployed for excise tax collection. Later, the representatives of both firms were recommended to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and their profiles forwarded for the BPP’s review and subsequent consideration for selective tendering for the Automation of Excise Tax collection. Kibo Laboratories, which introduced the programme to the Ministry as a PPP and initiated the entire procurement process then, was reportedly sidelined.

The present administration must demonstrate its intolerance for corruption by intervening and cancelling the whole process and inviting fresh proposals. Also, Ministry officials involved in this scandal should be made to face the wrath of the law as a deterrent to other corrupt public officials.

Olufisayo Adeoti sent this piece from Lagos