Probe recommends sacking tainted official

A probe committee of the Home Ministry has recommended sacking one of its under-secretaries found involved in the manipulation of tender specifications of the National ID Card Project.

An internal probe conducted by the ministry found that Anil Dutta, the under-secretary at the National ID Management Centre, was directly involved in manipulating some specifications of the bid document.

“He made a serious mistake by manipulating some specifications of the bid documents. Hence, we have decided to sack him from the civil service and in this regard, we will soon write to the Public Service Commission, seeking its nod for his removal,” a senior Home Ministry official told the Post.

The Home Ministry has suspended him for six months until a final decision is taken.

“We had sought a clarification from Dutta. We have recommended the minister and the Home Secretary to take strong action against him, which means sacking him from the job, as his clarification failed to satisfy the probe panel,” a senior official at the Home Ministry said.

Home Secretary Nabin Ghimire confirmed that the probe panel had recommended sacking Dutta. “However, I have not taken a final call on whether he should be sacked or not,” he said.

A ministry-level decision is first required to execute this recommendation, for which, Home Minister Madhav Ghimire has already given a go-ahead.

Under the aegis of the Home Ministry, the National Identity Card Centre had invited an international bid to introduce the NID, which will cost $117 million in the first phase. A total of $8 million for the first phase will be funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The pilot project aims to distribute 110,000 IDs in that phase.

The multi-million dollar project invited controversy after a group of bidders lodged a formal complaint at the Prime Minister’s Office, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and the ADB over the tender document.

The internal probe found that the specifications were prepared in a way that suited the experience and qualification of one German company, Gemalto.

MoHA sources said the specifications approved by the home ministry-level meeting and the one that appeared in the global tender notice did not match.

After competing bidders cried foul over tender specifications being ‘manipulated,’ the Home Ministry has made some amendments in the documents.

Though the probe panel has recommended Dutta’s removal, the ministry is still undecided on whether to go ahead with the global tender that was prepared by a team of experts, including one hired by the ADB.

“The entire bid should be reviewed because some specifications were inserted on behalf of one particular bidder. Dutta’s involvement in the matter means that there are some serious flaws in the bid documents,” the Ministry official said.

The competing bidders have expressed reservations over the inclusion of features in the bid document such as submitting proof of ‘intergraf certification’ which is only used in Europe. They have also demanded removing the provision that says the bidder should have over 10 years of experience in handling and supplying of laser-engraved polycarbonate cards.

“We do not want the Machine Readable Passport saga repeated, where several specifications were changed under the influence of a certain bidder. This process should go on smoothly without it being dragged to any controversy, while donors’ and public money should not be embezzled,” the official said.  More information about the program is available on the web site at http://www.careel-tech.com.

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