Finance Ministry denies GHRA’s claim that high-tech ID card deal is unlawful

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 March 2023, 20:40 by Denis Chabrol

Guyana’s Ministry of Finance on Wednesday rubbished claims by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) that the US$34.5 million contract awarded to a German company to implement high-tech Residency and Work Permit cards flouted this country’s procurement laws.

In a statement that questioned overwhelmingly the GHRA’s credibility, the Finance Ministry said the contract to VERIDOS was in keeping with Guyana’s Procurement Act. “Contrary to the false assertion made by the GHRA, the contract in question was awarded in
full conformity with the Laws of Guyana including the procurement laws,’ the Finance Ministry said.

The Finance Ministry did not elaborate on why that was so, but that law states that it does not apply to procurement involving national defence or national security and further states that where the procuring entity determines the national security concerns apply, then it may consider the single-source method as the most appropriate method of procurement. Single-source procurement occurs.

In defending the selection of VERIDOS, government said that company’s shareholders, Giesecke & Devrient and Bundesdruckerei GmbH,  were never involved in any skullduggery. “Additionally, the company who will be developing the solution for Guyana is a highly regarded supplier of items of this nature internationally, and its shareholding comprises two major entities operating in the secure printing industry worldwide, Giesecke & Devrient and Bundesdruckerei GmbH, both of whom have unchallengeable longstanding reputations globally,” the Finance Ministry said.

The GHRA had earlier this week earlier this week poured cold water on government’s reliance on technicians from the National Data Management Authority (NDMA) to determine the technical suitability of  VERIDOS, suggesting that better informed and impartial expertise should have been sought.

But, the Government of Guyana “maintains that the contract with Veridos was lawfully executed,  with an internationally reputable group, and is intended to deliver a product that will transform citizen experience in Guyana with the introduction of the integrated electronic
national identification card.”

Attorney General Anil Nandlall on Tuesday told Demerara Waves Online News that within the next eight months government would be enacting Data Protection legislation to govern the security of, among other information, the personal data that would be collected for the residency and work permit cards. He also said that a  new authority would be established to manage the digital identification system separately from the Guyana Elections Commission. The law, he said, would also mandate the State, government and private sector to use the card which would contain biodata, fingerprints, blood group, tax information, social security and birth registration with one common number.

“Once introduced, the card will enable citizens to interact with all government agencies and many private sector entities using this single unique and secure identifier, and will vastly improve the efficiency of service delivery to citizens,” the Finance Ministry added.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to Mr Nandlall, has also provided legislation from other countries where such cards are being used to assist the Guyana government in crafting its own laws.