MAPUTO, Belgium’s Semlex Group has accused the Mozambican government of behaving in an unjustified and illegal way when it terminated the contract with Semlex for the production of identity documents, which was signed in 2009 and was valid for ten years.

The government terminated the contract this year, citing Semlex’s failure to comply with clauses in the contract, and launched a tender to select another company to supply biometric document production systems.

Only now has Semlex protested, presumably because it believes it cannot win the new tender. Semlex did not submit a bid in its own name, but as the Lithuanian company, UAB Carsu Pasaulis. Since the Semlex Group purchased this company in 2014, the Lithuanian bid can be regarded as coming from Semlex under another name.

A jury from the Ministry of the Interior assessed the technical bids from five companies and announced its classification on Aug 9. Two of the bids were disqualified — one was submitted beyond the deadline, and the other did not meet all the requirements for a preliminary assessment.

Of the remaining three bidders, only two are now in contention. The Mozambican subsidiary of the German company Muhlbauer ID Services, received a score from the jury of 87.67. UAB Garsu Pasaulis trailed with a score of 70.05.

It looks impossible for the Lithuanian company to catch up. The financial bids have yet to be assessed, but are unlikely to change the ranking, since the technical assessment accounts for 70 per cent of the final score, and the financial assessment only 30 per cent.

That is the background to Thursday’s Semlex statement attacking the government, and declaring that it wants to fulfill the first contract right to the end, in 2019. Semlex protests that its Mozambican production was and continues to be very high, despite alleged delays in payments by the government.

It says that Semlex installed and managed document production in Mozambique, and set up infrastructures at the main border posts for which the Mozambican government did not pay anything.

The government terminated the contract after an audit found Semlex in violation of the contract. Semlex now wants another audit which should be carried out by an independent entity, a recognized company, with proven technical and professional experience in the area. It says the government has turned this proposal down.

The Semlex deal was struck by the previous government, under President Armando Guebuza, and the contract was given to Semlex in 2009 without any public tender, in violation of Mozambique’s procurement rules.

Immediately there were claims that the contract was illegal, and protests at the high prices charged for the Semlex identity documents. Thus the price for a Mozambican passport jumped from the equivalent of five or ten US dollars (depending on type) to 100 dollars. The cost of an identity card more than tripled in price (from the equivalent of less than two dollars to six dollars).