Five companies are in contention to print the National Bank of Ethiopia‘s (NBE) first ever batch of standardised cheques. This was revealed on Tuesday, last week, when the NBE opened bids from cheque printing companies for the supply of 419,261 chequebooks.

In a bid to avoid forgery and expedite cheque clearing and settlement, the NBE, along with the Ethiopian Bankers’ Association (EBA), made a decision to standardise all cheques from banks across the country. This will include the inclusion of security features that are hard to replicate and a technology solution, called Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR).

Following this, the NBE floated a selective tender in May 2013.This procurement tender aimed to select and approve authorised MICR cheque printing companies, which Ethiopian banks could use. In addition, it also targeted selecting a company for the initial standardised printing of cheques to supply Ethiopian banks.

All of the cheques to be printed will have the same features, except for the logos of different banks, which will be printed on them, according to sources within the NBE.

By the extended bid closing date of July 9, 2013, seven companies had participated in the tender. Participants included – Ethiopian Trade-Contract (ET-CON) PLC, Sudan Currency Printing Press (SCCP), Tall printing, Shree Nidhi Secure printing, De La Rue, Madras Secure Printing and Manipal group, according to sources at the NBE.

In the presence of bidders, the procurement team at the National Bank and an advisor from the Commercial Bank ofEthiopia, technical proposals were opened for initial review during bid opening. Two of the companies – the local based, ET-CON, known in the financial sector for providing note and coin counting machines fromSwedenand SCCP – the only MCIR printing company inSudan, were disqualified for not complying with the bidding requirements.

Proposals from the rest of the companies will be evaluated by a bid committee. This includes the property & services management, and clearing and settlement department heads of the NBE, along with advisors from commercial banks, starting this week.

“The Ethiopian Conformity Assessmet Enterprise is also on board to lend its expertise on the quality of cheques to be printed and approve of the committee’s final pick,” an official who works closely on the issue at the NBE told Fortune anonymously