The World Bank has blacklisted Bangladeshi company Tiger IT for nine and half years on charges of corruption in the smartcard printing project of the election commission.
Chairman of the company Ziaur Rahman has also been blacklisted for six and half years, according to a WB statement.
Although the WB carried out an investigation on the same project in 2015, it did not find corruption at that time.
According to the WB, Tiger IT and its chairman have indulged in corruption by tampering tenders. They interfered in the tender process so that others cannot participate in the tenders. They also tried to influence the investigation the WB was carrying out on the alleged corruption. WB blacklisted Tiger IT’s associate French company Oberthur in November last year.
WB disclosed it on 24 April. The concerned board of WB took the decision after hearing different parties. The hearing was held in Washington.
The EC undertook a project ‘Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services’ (IDEA) on 14 November 2011 to issue smartcards to voters. Around Tk 14 billion was taken as loan from WB to implement the project.
The EC gave the work to Oberthur instead of qualified companies for making smartcards. The EC set conditions in the tender so that none but Oberthur can participate. The EC did it at the advice of Oberthur’s local agent Tiger IT.
The matter became clear later. Locally Tiger IT did the work although Oberthur got the work to make smartcards.
Following an allegation of aggrieved companies, WB sent a two-member team to Dhaka in June of 2015 to carry out an investigation. At that time they could not identify any corruption.
In 2016, Prothom Alo approached two WB officials for information about the investigation, which they declined.
Oberthur was in debt before making the contract with EC. Soon it merged with another company named Morpho to get rid of the liability after getting the work of making smartcards. The current name of the company is IDEMIA.
The EC made the contract with Oberthur on 14 January 2015. As per the contract, Oberthur will make smartcards for 900 million voters, will carry out personalisation (preservation of voters’ information) of cards and will distribute at the upazila and thana (police station) levels. The EC’s contract with Oberthur was supposed to be ended on June 2016. But despite extensions, the company could not finish the work in time. As a result, EC cancelled the contract with Oberthur in 2018.
It is learnt Oberthur could not supply empty cards timely due to change of its owners. The new company hiked the price of cards and a conflict with Tiger IT ensued. The dispute between the companies is under trial at a Dhaka court.
When asked about the matter, Tiger IT director Tapendra Narayan declined to make any comments.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.