As plans are afoot to digitalize the entire court and judicial system in Sri Lanka in order to expedite legal proceedings and cases, the process to call for tenders by leading IT companies in Sri Lanka has been marred in corruption allegedly by a techinical committee which has been appointed within the Ministry of Technology who have shortlisted two companies within a matter of weeks.
Following a directive by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is heading the Ministry of Technology, to digitalize the Ministry of Justice and the entire legal system in Sri Lanka, tenders were called by the Ministry's technical commitee in April frpm leading local IT companies to apply, with the most eligible company being able to win the tender.
The cost of the project is an estimated 20 million US dollars.
Highly places sources told the Daily Mirror that all interested companies were informed that the application process would close by June 3, 3 pm, and any companies applying thereafter would not be eligible. Sources said that 13 companies made their applications which include Sierra Construction (Pvt) Limited, ITX 360, KPMG, Millennium IT, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, Softlogic Information Technologies Pvt Ltd., Abans PLC, Metropolitan Advanced Technologies Pvt. Ltd., Swedish Trading AV, DMS Software Technologies, VS Information Systems, Just In Time Group and Hayleys Fentons.
With the application process coming to a closure on June 3, 3 pm, in documents seen by Daily Mirror, it was noted that Dialog Enterprise made its application at 3.05 pm, thereby making them ineligible.
However, sources said that the excuse mentioned in the report by the Ministry of Justice stated that a 'slowness of the applicants network' was reported over the phone at 2.56 pm. and the applicant had submitted an appeal.
Some of the other companies were up in arms over the decision to accept the late application, stating that they had all adhered to the dealine. When questioned, members from the Technical Commitee had alledgely responded saying they wanted greater competition for the bid and the best price.
Sources within these companies told Daily Mirror that in addition to applying late, they were allegedly notified that Dialog Enterprises had also not submitted its Board Resolution on time, leading to queries how their application could then proceed.
Following this entire process, within weeks, the Technical Commitee were able to shortlist seven companies and by last Friday an internal email was sent to the eligible companies that most of them had been disqualified over reasons stated, and now the tender had been shortlisted within two – Dialog Enterprises and Just In Time.
“It is highly unacceptable that Dialog could be within the final two as they should have been disqualified for their late submission itself. No one seems to be answering our queries over this, making it unfair for the companies who applied on time,” officials said.
“It is as if the company was already selected but just to follow the procedures, the tenders were called from interested companies,” some of the applicants alleged.
Companies who have applied for the tenders are now appealing for the intervention of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to call out an investigation against the awarding of this tender which will be awarded this week to one of the two shortlisted companies. They say that at a time when the government is emphasizing on going digital, a transparent tender calling procedure must be carried out so all companies get an equal chance to submit applications as well as the tenders should be awarded to the companies who have the necessary expertise.
“The President's vision to go digital should be carried out in a fair manner. Not in a manner which will be marred in questions and corruption,” officials said. (JAMILA HUSAIN)