AG dismisses uninformed, premature criticisms of e-ID card contract

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, has deemed as ‘uninformed’ and ‘premature’, calls for the cancellation of the US$35.4 million contract with German-based company, Veridos Identity Solutions for the development of an electronic identification card (e-ID) system in Guyana.

Speaking on Tuesday, during his weekly televised programme, ‘Issues in the News,’ AG Nandlall clarified that such a move would be ‘unlawful’.

He was responding to criticisms made by former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran who has called on the government to cancel the e-ID contract, as he believes, it breaches the Procurement Act 2003 and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA).However, Minister Nandlall has made it clear that back peddling on the already signed contract is an indication of a contractual breach, which can attract litigation and discredit the government’s standing on the international stage.He said calling on the government to unilaterally cancel the contract will be encouraging unlawful acts in governance.

“These public commentators, when they choose to speak on these matters, have to be informed about the concepts and precepts that they utilise in their public statements … one cannot simply cancel a contract that has been executed [and] signed by two parties,” the attorney general explained.

Minister Nandlall reiterated that the government was acting in conformity with the procurement laws of Guyana when it was determined necessary to sole source the contract.The Procurement Act 2003 permits sole sourcing when the goods or services that are being procured involve matters of national security, in this case, information or data belonging to the citizenry of Guyana. 
Further, he explained that it is the executive that determines issues that are of national security and importance, hence, the sole sourcing of the German-based company for the development of the e-ID card system locally.

“That is why, not any run-off the mill company ought to be awarded or considered for a contract of this type…when one examines the very arguments that these critics are advancing, those arguments qualify this instrument to be one that is so important that it falls into the category of national security and the appropriate mechanism in the legislation was used in respect of this transaction,”
he underscored.With regards to data protection, the attorney general emphasised that the contract spans over a period, during which the administrative mechanism for how the card will be issued will be developed.Legislation on who qualifies for the card is currently being developed, and Minister Nandlall assured that consultations will be held with the relevant stakeholders on the proposed legislation.

“These guys don’t ask any questions but they jump to conclusions. So, both the GHRA and Mr Anand Goolsarran have levelled the allegation that there is no legislation in place, and that allegation and criticism are premature.

“Legislation is not in place, neither is the card in place. But by the time the card becomes ready for issue, there will be the appropriate supporting legal framework, an administrative framework to support the issuance of the card,” he emphasised.

The senior counsel also made it clear that the FMAA was not infringed by the state as alleged by Goolsarran, who said in his statements that funds were not catered for in the 2023 budget.

In this regard, the attorney general lambasted the commentators for speaking on matters without being equipped with the relevant information.The e-ID card will be compliant with 18013-5 of the ISO Standard and will be accepted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) for international travel. 

Its capabilities are also in keeping with the government’s commitment to promoting e-governance to improve the productivity of businesses and the delivery of government services through the introduction of e-health, e-education, e-security, e-agriculture, and license processing among other areas.