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Nigerian commissions new UAV


Written by Oscar Nkala, Thursday, 19 December 2013

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has commissioned the country’s latest Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) which will be deployed as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaisance (ISR) platform in the fight against terrorism, maritime piracy and crude oil theft.

The UAV was unveiled in a ceremony on Tuesday attended by senior government officials and defence officials led by Air Force Chief of Staff Air Marshall Alex Badeh at the Kaduna Air Force base.

The aircraft, which has been named ‘Gulma’ meaning ‘gossip’ in the local Hausa language, was produced by the Nigerian Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) with the help of aerospace engineers from Cranfield University in Britain. Since 2007, the British institution has partnered the AFTI as part of the Nigerian government’s bid to develop an in-house capacity for advanced aviation design, research and development.
Powered by a 17 hp engine, the Gulma is built on a composite aluminium alloy structure, operates via radio control on a Micro Pilot FCS avionics system and weighs 40 kilogrammes.

It has a maximum cruise range of 923 km and a top flight speed of 86 knots. It can cruise at a maximum altitude of 10 000 feet and has an endurance of up to 5.8 hours. The AFIT team has so far trained 15 pilots to operate its growing fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony Jonathan said the unveiling of the aircraft is a milestone in Nigeria’s bid to develop a domestic defence and aerospace industry.

“Besides its diverse military applications, the UAV provides us with a range of benefits in disaster management, power line surveys, law enforcement operations, telecommunications, weather monitoring and aerial imaging/mapping. It is also becoming an important tool in news coverage, environmental safety monitoring, and oil and gas exploration surveys,” Jonathan said.

He said that through innovative research and development programmes, the Nigerian Navy, Air Force and Army engineering divisions have in the course of this year produced the country’s first indigenous navy combat vessel, armoured personnel carrier (APC) and bomb detection and disposal equipment.

Badeh said the launch of the Gulma underlines the country’s strong resolve to achieve self-sufficiency in military aviation technology and capability. “The Gulma has been designed to meet vast expectations and needs. It could be employed by the armed forces and security agencies for the protection of Nigeria. We also envisage viable partnerships with agencies such as National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the area of disaster management and the Nigerian Air Space Management Agency (NAMA) in the area of weather forecasting,” Badeh said.

He said the government should upgrade the AFIT from a limited innovative research outfit into a viable aircraft production centre with the capacity to mass-produce indigenous UAVs. Acting defence minister Labaran Maku said Nigeria needs a comprehensive policy to support the development of indigenous UAVs to enhance the operations of security services presently battling the Boko Haram insurgency in the north and maritime crimes and oil theft in the Gulf of Guinea and Niger Delta areas.

He said it is important for the Air Force to allow other security agencies to incorporate its UAVs into their operations so that the whole sector can make use of their full strategic potential. “Emphasis should now be placed on the harmonisation of our research and development programmes towards the attainment of a common goal to transform the Nigerian Armed Forces into one of the top fighting forces in the world.

“Working hand in hand with NAF and other (security) services, the Federal Ministry of Defence shall sustain its efforts at encouraging local content in its pursuit of military asset acquisition. Also the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigerian (DICON) shall be further empowered to provide support to the services in their respective and collective research and development efforts,” Maku said.

Earlier this year the Nigerian Air Force flew two indigenously developed unmanned aerial vehicles, which were presumed to be versions of the Amebo, which was unveiled at Air Expo 2012 in Kaduna. The Amebo I, II and III UAVs were developed by MSc students from the Air Force Institute of Technology. At the Air Expo, AFIT stated that test flights for Amebo I and II had been carried out by UK pilots in 2010 and 2011, but that a NAF pilot would perform the Amebo III test flight.

How cars and smartphones ‘inflated’ Huawei’s NetOne Zimbabwe


ITWebAfrica

By Gareth van Zyl

Cars, smartphones and solar powered cell towers were among items that inflated an initial price tag of Chinese telecommunications equipment firm Huawei’s controversial network upgrade deal for Zimbabwean state-owned mobile operator NetOne.

This is according to documents a source has provided to ITWeb Africa regarding the network upgrade deal, which is facing a court case in Harare amid allegations that the over $200 million contract was awarded illegally.

Zimbabwean-born Tafadzwa Muguti, who lives in South Africa, has taken NetOne, Zimbabwe’s State Procurement Board (SPB), Huawei and the Anti-Corruption Commission of Zimbabwe to Harare’s administrative court over the awarding of the $200 million contract.

The businessman, who is the chief executive officer of investment group Africapaciti, wants to find out how Huawei won the NetOne contract, even though the Chinese company did not go through an official tender process.

Because NetOne is a state-owned entity, it is obliged to adhere to Zimbabwe’s procurement laws with regard to the awarding of contracts, Muguti has argued.

Muguti also alleges the contract was awarded to Huawei despite Zimbabwe’s SPB having expressed concerns over an inflated price for the project. The SPB is the first respondent in Muguti’s court case.

And documents detailing the record of proceedings regarding the awarding of the deal, which are in the hands of ITWeb Africa, illustrate the SPB’s initial concerns about the Huawei deal.

In a July 2013 letter from NetOne to the SPB, in which the mobile operator addresses concerns about the Huawei deal to the SPB, an amount of $298.6 million is quoted for the upgrade, which hinged on a loan from China’s Exim Bank.

That figure was then dropped to $251 million, according to the documents, and ultimately — as the documents later reveal — this figure was cut to $218 million.

NetOne officials, in the document, argued that only Huawei could carry out the upgrade deal as the mobile network’s infrastructure is from the Chinese telecommunications firm.

But the State Procurement Board then raised the following issues, which are summarised below:

  • “Members noted with concern that the Secretariat had failed to properly analyse the matter for logical presentation to the board.”
  • “The presentation was jumbled up and comprised of disparate requirements including Upgrades, New Equipment and Construction of a Building.”
  • “The matter was also hastily presented as an urgent item without adequate background and factual information.”
  • “Background was inadequate and lazy.”
  • “There was no clear justification why the current requirements should not go to tender, in light of the unclear relationships between the projects.”

The documents reveal that on 27 June 2013, the State Procurement Board deferred the pending of the contract to await further input.

The board also raised concerns about “the procurement of smartphones and tablets for resale to the public, which are not part of the network upgrade.”

Furthermore, the documents also highlight concerns that Huawei had quoted inflated prices for equipment that may not help with a widespread upgrade to next generation LTE.

Items that the deal was initially planned to include were as follows, according to the record of proceedings:

  • Purchase of 1336 2.75G base stations
  • Purchase of 600 3G base stations
  • Purchase of 400 4G base station
  • Supply of 500 diesel generators to serve as stand-by power at base station sites

NetOne in the documentation does argue that Huawei has quoted it at a lower price for base stations at $170,000 rather than the market price of $180,000.

In the documents, the Zimbabwe’s ministry for transport, communications and infrastructure development, did write to the SPB calling for the upgrade to be given to Huawei.

The ministry argued the deal could help NetOne boost its services, subscriber base and contribute to Zimbabwe’s ICT development.

But a letter from the Transport department then outlines how the project had been scaled down.

“Some of the key components that have either been scaled down or removed as a result, include Base station Towers that have been reduced by half, removal of four wheel drive vehicles for project implementation and maintenance, solar powered Base Stations that were meant to serve as coverage gap fillers, the online charge system, where NetOne will later have to expand the existing system to meet the increased subscribers to be connected,” says the letter.

The response goes on to allay fears regarding the number of 4G stations, as the Transport department said that these would be deployed in highly dense urban areas to cater for demand.

The Huawei-NetOne contract, though, was publicly announced in July while deliberations continued in the background.

And in that same month, concerns about the deal were communicated from the State Procurement Board in a record of proceedings.

Among these included:

  • “Members noted that there were allegations of overpricing some aspects of the project components.”
  • “Members noted with concern that according to the minute from the Secretary for Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development to Treasury dated June 19, 2013, NetOne and Huawei Technologies of China had already signed a contract for the Works without authority.”

A board resolution on the 18th of July then further deferred the matter.

Further reading into the documents also reveals that the Post & Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe but that concerns existed that the watchdog had not consulted the relevant industry experts.

The contract price in the documents goes down then to $218 million, while reports in July talk of a deal that was just over $200 million

Court case postponed

Subsequently, on 19 November, Tafadzwa Muguti’s court case against the relevant parties was postponed.

However, in court documents, the SPB has outline that it did finally approve the Huawei deal, despite its concerns outlined in the record of proceedings.

The board then further highlights how it consulted advice from three government ministries and telecommunication and IT engineers.

The board goes on to say in court papers that the urgency of the upgrade drove its decision.

As a result, the board asked that the court reject Muguti’s appeal as “frivolous and vexatious.”

The board also then asks that the court finds that its decision was “prudent and feasible.”

Finally, the board asks that the court throws out the appeal with costs for a lack of merit.

Huawei responds

Chinese telecommunications equipment firm, Huawei, meanwhile has also denied alleged corruption regarding the deal.

“For the project with NetOne, we strictly abide by all procurement laws and regulations in Zimbabwe, our target is to help Zimbabwe people enjoy their life through communication at affordable price,” Jacky Zhang, who works with Huawei Technologies Zambia but manages communications for Zimbabwe, told ITWeb Africa.

“The allegation for over-inflated is not base on the truth,” Zhang told ITWeb Africa.

ITWeb Africa also asked NetOne for comment, but the company has not responded to emails.

Kenya: Oswago Tells EACC of Bad Blood Between Staff, Supplier


AllAfrica.com

BY DOMINIC WABALA, 15 AUGUST 2013

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chief Executive Officer James Oswago has revealed the “acrimonious” working relationship between the commission’s Director for ICT and representatives of the company that was awarded the tender to supply election equipment.

Oswago’s statement to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission that is probing the pre-election procurement process at IEBC delves into the behind the scenes intrigues that surrounded the delayed procurement of the equipment, the change of specification for the kits and why they failed to perform as expected.

Oswago said this bad blood between the ICT director Dismas Ong’ondi and employees of Face Technologies (Facestec) caused a delay in the delivery of the kits which arrived a month before the election day.

“The director ICT raised most of the issues which had already been answered by Face Technologies. I may add that the relationship between Dismas and Face was sour/antagonistic for some reasons I never understood. The issues he was raising were relevant, but it was his duty to fully engage and provide a solution e.g. the CEO had to get personally engaged in the effort to get Face to deliver the EVID fully configured and load the final BVR Register per polling station at Kasarani, a function which would have been done by the Director himself and I later delegated that to be headed by Shollei/ICT managers,” Oswago said.

The CEO attributed the delay to request by the Directorate of ICT late changes of data without prior notification. “I stated that Face too are frustrated by poor response on critical issues from ICT Directorate and I had seen evidence of it as in the exchange of several emails between Dismas and Face Technologies in which Face lists clear instances of promises made but not fulfilled by ICT, late changes to the data on file without prior notification forcing Face team to redo some work afresh, areas where in correct data was sent to Face Technologies. Finally the Director ICT was never involved at all in the setting up of the EVID data processing centre at Kasarani Sports Complex,” Oswago says in his statement.

The CEO also blamed the failure of the Electronic Voter Identification Devices (EVIDs) during the March 4 2013 election on human error owing to inadequate training of poll clerks.

“The gadgets did not fail- human error resulting from insufficient training caused the problem. I can state that the EVID equipment hand held or laptop worked very well in all cases where charging issue was addressed. Indeed, in elections for CAW conducted in Kuria EAST AND Samburu, three week after the March 4th polls, the EVID worked perfectly well,” Oswago said.

The IEBC CEO said that the delivery of the kits was delay for over 30 days because a complaint had been lodged at the Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA) challenging the award of the tender to Face Technologies while the ICT director constantly faulted any efforts by the South African company as they tried to deliver on time.

Oswago said that he delegated the EVID project to the IEBC Deputy Commissioner Secretary-Support Services Wilson Shollei and was not involved in some of the communication between Face Technology and IEBC.

The IEBC CEO told the investigators in his statement on June 28 2013 at 9:30am that on December 5 2012, he received a memo from Deputy Commission Secretary Support Services Wilson Shollei requesting him to authorize transfer of US $ 16,651,139 (Sh1.4 billion) to the Commission’s Kenya Commercial Bank account No. 1117602532 University way branch to complete the contractual obligation with Face Technology.

“I am aware that on December 05, 2012 the DCS-Support Services, Mr Wilson Shollei wrote a memo to me requesting for authority to transfer funds amounting USD 16,651,139.3 to the Commission account No. 1117602532 at KCB University Way. The Commission was in the process of entering a contract with Face Technologies to supply EVID and the contract required irrevocable letter of credit. Subsequently, I gave the approval on December 05, 2012 partly because I had earlier assigned Shollei responsibility to manage EVID procurement and implementation and partly because I had received verbal briefs from him that the vendor had specifically asked for an LC in the contract. This information was also included in the memo. I can see on the memo produced before me here today, Shollei gave instruction for voucher preparation to the Director manager Finance on 10th December and he has signed for the accounting officer. I am seeing this for the first time,” Oswago said in his statement.

He also denies being aware of the US$ 15 per kit for some rubber protection which is tax exempt yet the other items are taxable.

Google Maps Navigation Goes Live In Kenya


VENTURES AFRICA – Global search engine giant, Google, on Thursday, launched Google Maps Navigation for mobile users in Kenya, making driving to unfamiliar destinations easier.

Mobile phone users with Smartphones powered by Android 2.2 or newer and iOS 5.1 (and above) can take advantage of the new feature.

Other African nations newly benefiting from this product include Ghana, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, and Senegal.

Google Maps Navigation is a mobile application that comes as a feature of the Google Maps. It was built from the ground up as an Internet-connected GPS system, allowing users to search for their locations through voice recognition.

The app uses an internet connection to a GPS navigation system for turn-by-turn voice-guided instructions on how to arrive at a given destination.

With the turn-by-turn voice-guided navigation; users no longer have to look at their phone screen to follow the route; rather, they listen for indications.

In addition to offering address search, Google Navigation allows users to search for locations by their business names. It also present series of features including identifying landmarks along the route such as petrol stations, restaurants and parking areas.

Google’s navigation tool is regularly updated with the most recent data from Google Maps, which means users will not be required to purchase map upgrades or manually update their devices.

“Being connected to the Internet means you’re always using the latest data from Google Maps. You never need to buy map upgrades or manually update your device. Where traffic data is available, Navigation can even automatically route you around bad traffic,” Google said in a statement.

Interested users can get Google Maps Navigation, search for and download the newest release of ‘Google Maps’ in Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Kenya: Minutes reveal how IEBC bought pollbooks


Standard Digital

By Moses Michira and Paul Wafula

March 26, 2013

NAIROBI, KENYAThe electoral commission, which conducted the March 4 General Election, bought voter identification gadgets without testing their technical capability.

Face Technology, the South African firm that supplied the equipment also known as poll books, won the tender before a technical evaluation was conducted among the five prequalified bidders.

A review of the tendering procedure by the public procurement regulator found out the tender to supply poll books was awarded to the South African firm, which participated in the Anglo Leasing scandal, on September 29 last year, three weeks before the technical evaluation among the shortlisted bidders.

This major procurement breach ensured firms that were to later demonstrate their capabilities for the task, like America’s Avante and France’s Safran Morpho were left out.

The public procurement regulator, however, found out IEBC had actually made its decision to award the tender to Face Technology more than three weeks before the October 22 demonstration of technical capabilities.

Minutes from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC and presented by Avante to the regulator indicated that the tender was actually awarded on September 29.

“…bidder number 3 M/S Face Technology be considered for the award of the contract at a total cost of Sh1.397724925 ($16651139.13),” reads part of the official information from IEBC’s September 29 meeting.

The regulator says since a decision had been made, the exercise of proof of concept was meaningless becauseFace Technology, whose devise had failed, had been shockingly declared the winner. The revelation now provides the critical answers to the billion-dollar question, what exactly went wrong in the voter identification during the last General Election conducted by IEBC?

The public procurement regulator fell short of cancelling IEBC’s tender, only allowing it to proceed in the greater public interest considering the time left, on its December 3, last year, terse ruling. IEBC’s defence was that Face Technology had the lowest quote at Sh1.39 billion disregarding its inability to produce the required equipment, compared to Safran Morpho’s Sh1.6 billion and Avante’s Sh2.1 billion.

Questionable tendering

IEBC’s motivation in awarding the tender to Face Technology was questioned by the regulator who established an uneven playing ground in the procurement process. Face Technology had presented a prototype that never worked at the tendering stage, but the IEBC inexplicably offered the firm another chance to demonstrate its technical capability.

A meeting between IEBC and the three prequalified bidders held on October 10, last year indicated Safran Morpho declined to parade its prototype, while Face Technology’s equipment fell short of the requirements in the tender document.

“(Avante’s prototype) can satisfactorily meet the specifications provided in the tender document for voter identification device,” further reads the report. “( Face Technology) did not demonstrate a prototype that met the proof of concept requirements as stipulated in the tender document.”

IEBC invited Face Technology and Safran Morpho in a subsequent demonstration, leaving out Avante, which had demonstrated its technical capacity, in a meeting held on October 22. Minutes of the meeting show Face Technology presented a different device from that submitted during the close of the tender, a major procurement breach, which the IEBC turned a blind eye to.

During the evaluation,Face Technologyprovided a prototype device, which lacked a spare power back-up of 12 hours that was marked as critical. It also did not have an original battery attached to the laptops that would last for 12 hours.

The device it supplied at this stage did not meet the requirement that its start-up and recovery time would last less than 30 seconds. This means the prototype ofFace Technology was taking longer to start than required. None of the companies that qualified for the second round of evaluation also provided gadgets that had unique identification numbers assigned by the manufacturers. Lack of this detail exposes the gadgets to difficulties in tracing the user and location in case they are used to hack into the system. The Board accuses the IEBC of being cosy with Face Technologyand finding small excuses with the other companies to disqualify them.

“It (IEBC) appears to have adopted in the processing of this tender, a scheme of nit-picking, when it came to the tenders of the bidders it did not favour, and one of cosiness when it came with the successful bidder (Face Technologies),” a report, critical of the process, reads in part.

The revelations come at a time when it emerged the electronic voting and transmission system could have been attacked at least twice before it finally crashed at 8pm on Election Day.

S. African telecom firm helped Iran evade US sanctions, documents show


By Steve Stecklow  Reuters
August 30, 2012, 8:11 pm

Rogan Ward / Reuters  A shopkeeper awaits customers in a shop advertising MTN airtime sales in Umlazi township in Durban, South Africa.

LONDON — A South African telecom giant plotted to procure embargoed U.S. technology products for an Iranian subsidiary through outside vendors to circumvent American sanctions on the Islamic Republic, according to internal documents seen by Reuters.

The fresh revelations about MTN Group, buttressed by interviews with people familiar with the procurement, come as the South African multinational faces fights on several fronts over its lucrative but controversial Iranian venture, a fast-growing telecom.

MTN is in talks with the U.S. Treasury in an effort to win permission to repatriate millions of dollars of profit now bottled up in Iran by American sanctions on the Iranian financial system. MTN’s chief executive disclosed the talks with U.S. officials this month, saying, “U.S. sanctions should not have unintended consequences for non-U.S. companies.” An elite South African police unit is investigating how MTN obtained the Iranian telecom’s license, following corruption allegations made by a Turkish rival in a U.S. federal lawsuit.

Johannesburg-based MTN Group is Africa’s largest telecom carrier, with operations in more than 20 countries. It owns 49 percent of MTN Irancell, a joint venture with a consortium controlled by the Iranian government. The South African company provided the initial funding for the venture and oversaw the telecom’s launch in 2006.

Hundreds of pages of internal documents reviewed by Reuters show that MTN employees created presentations for meetings and wrote reports that openly discussed circumventing U.S. sanctions to source American tech equipment for MTN Irancell. The documents also address the potential consequences of getting caught. The sanctions are intended to curb Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran maintains is peaceful.

The equipment included products from Sun Microsystems Inc, Oracle Corp, International Business Machines Corp, EMC Corp, Hewlett Packard Co and Cisco Systems Inc, and was used to provide such services as wiretapping, voice mail and text messaging, the documents show.

In a statement, MTN denied any wrongdoing. The U.S. companies have said they were not aware MTN Irancell had acquired their products, and several are investigating the matter. U.S. Treasury officials declined to comment.

‘It all showed up’ Reuters first reported in June that MTN Irancell had procured U.S. equipment through a network of tech companies in Iran and the Middle East. The article quoted Chris Kilowan, MTN’s top executive in Iran from 2004 to 2007, saying that the South African company was directly involved in obtaining U.S. parts for the Iranian telecom.

The new documents provide a much deeper understanding of the extent of MTN’s procurement of embargoed U.S. goods, exposing new links in the supply chain of products worth millions of dollars. They also give a rare inside look at the thinking of a multinational doing business in Iran and the difficult choices involved. The documents show that MTN was well aware of the U.S. sanctions, wrestled with how to deal with them and ultimately decided to circumvent them by relying on Middle Eastern firms inside and outside Iran.

MTN was not alone. In recent months, new evidence has emerged that other foreign companies, including Britain’s Standard Chartered bank and China’s ZTE Corp, have helped Iran undermine increasingly tougher sanctions. The bank, which agreed to pay $340 million to New York’s bank regulator to settle allegations it hid transactions with Iran, still faces a separate U.S. probe. ZTE is the subject of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Commerce Department after Reuters reported it had supplied U.S. equipment to Iran’s largest telecom.

The new MTN documents appear to detail an intentional effort to evade sanctions. For example, a January 2006 PowerPoint presentation prepared for the project steering committee — comprised of then top-level MTN executives — includes a slide titled “Measures adopted to comply with/bypass US embargoes.” It discussed how the company had decided to outsource Irancell’s data center after receiving legal advice.

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“In the absence of applicable U.S. consents, it is a less risky route to MTN for Irancell to outsource data centre than it is to purchase restricted products,” the PowerPoint slide says.

The documents also include a lengthy spreadsheet of “3rd Party” equipment dated June 2006 that lists hundreds of U.S. components — including servers, routers, storage devices and software — required for a variety of systems.

A delivery schedule also dated June 2006 lists U.S. equipment needed for “value-added services,” including voice mail and a wiretapping system. The schedule states that the equipment would be “Ready to Ship Dubai” that July and August. It estimates it would take two weeks to arrive in the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas by “Air or Sea/Road,” and then up to 30 days to clear Iranian customs.

According to a person familiar with the matter, the equipment ultimately arrived by boat. “It all showed up,” this person said.

‘Outstanding issues’ Reuters reported in June that a Kuwait-based telecom-service provider called Shabakkat was used to procure some U.S. equipment for MTN Irancell. Shabakkat’s former country manager in Iran said the products were purchased from a local Iranian company.

But the person familiar with the matter said Shabakkat also sourced U.S. products from a distributor in Dubai called Exit40. The distributor no longer operates.

A Shabakkat executive in Kuwait did not respond to requests for comment. Two former top executives of Exit40 could not be reached for comment.

The documents suggest procuring the U.S. parts often wasn’t easy, and the process was plagued by delays. For example, a “High Level Weekly Report” in November 2006 discusses problems sourcing Sun hardware.

“Urgent decision required to source SUN machines through local supplier,” it states. A note in red at the bottom of another PowerPoint slide says: “According to Shabakkat, all SUN HW is at Dubai waiting for Payment.” HW stands for hardware.

The following month, a spreadsheet detailing “Outstanding issues” cites delays in deploying a system called USSD that enables interactive services. “The USSD platform is completely built on SUN hardware – hence until the SUN hardware is delivered by Shabakkat USSD implementation will be delayed,” the spreadsheet says.

Paul Norman, MTN Group’s chief human resources and corporate affairs officer, said in a statement to Reuters: “MTN denies that it has ever conspired with suppliers to evade applicable U.S. sanctions on Iran or had a policy to do so. MTN works with reputable international suppliers. Our equipment is purchased from turnkey vendors and all our vendors are required to comply with U.S. and E.U. sanctions. We have checked vendor compliance procedures and continue to monitor them and we are confident they are robust.”

The Hawks, a South African police unit, is investigating MTN over allegations contained in a federal lawsuit filed in Washington in March by Turkcell, an Istanbul-based rival. The suit alleges that MTN stole the Iranian telecom license from Turkcell in November 2005 by paying bribes. MTN denies the allegations and has attacked the credibility of former MTN executive Kilowan, who is Turkcell’s key witness in the case. The procurement of banned U.S. products is not a subject of the lawsuit.

‘Civil and criminal consequences’ According to the internal procurement documents, right from the start MTN was well aware of what it termed “embargo issues” and the inherent risks involved.

A December 2005 PowerPoint presentation marked confidential and emblazoned with MTN’s logo noted that the “Consequences of non compliance” included “Civil and criminal consequences.” The PowerPoint slide added that the U.S. government could blacklist MTN, “which could result in all MTN operations being precluded from sourcing products/services from U.S. based companies in future.”

According to a person familiar with the matter, MTN was determined that MTN Irancell procure substantial amounts of U.S. equipment: The U.S. products had performed well in its other networks, and the company’s technicians were familiar with them. But MTN soon learned that its major contractors on the project — particularly Nokia — wouldn’t provide the equipment because of the U.S. embargo.

So MTN executives began to explore ways to procure the parts without violating sanctions, the documents show. The company initially explored an exception to the sanctions known as the “de minimis” rule. Under it, tech products can sometimes be legally exported to Iran from a foreign country if the aggregate value of the U.S. parts or technology inside is less than 10 percent.

According to the person familiar with the matter, MTN believed that if U.S. components comprised less than 10 percent of a large system, its major contractors could legally procure them. But the company learned that the rule applies to each component, not to an overall system.

“Once they figured it out, they realized the vendors wouldn’t accept that,” this person said. “Now they had a problem.”

According to a weekly report from December 2005, MTN also explored another alternative — obtaining U.S. parts from the so-called “grey market,” or unauthorized distribution channels. The report suggests “obtaining go ahead to procure US embargoed products … from grey market notwithstanding the adverse consequences to MTN.”

The person familiar with the situation said MTN was under tremendous pressure to launch the Iranian mobile operator as quickly as possible, because it had told shareholders it projected having 1 million subscribers by the end of 2006. The operator finally launched in October, after months of delays, and is now Iran’s second-largest wireless carrier by subscribers.

The procurement problems are referenced in numerous internal MTN and MTN Irancell documents. A June 2006 status report discussed delays in the delivery of essential components for value-added services, or VAS.

“The primary challenge in the establishment of the VAS solution is simply that the hardware platforms required are of US origin and therefore fall foul of the US embargo on exports to Iran,” the report says. “This means that innovative mechanisms need to be applied to secure delivery of the hardware platforms.” Another progress report makes reference to an “Order placed last week with Turkey and Iran to circumvent embargo issues.”

Reuters reported in June that some of the U.S. equipment — including at least a half-dozen Sun servers –was sourced locally through Iranian companies. But according to the person familiar with the matter, many other U.S. components were acquired via Dubai by Shabakkat, which was paid about $30 million to $40 million to acquire them — about twice their value.

“You had a buyer who was desperate,” the person said, referring to MTN. “They didn’t have any other options.”

Mahmoud Tadjallimehr became a project manager for Nokia on the MTN Irancell project in November 2006. In an interview, he said it was known within the mobile operator that Shabakkat was sourcing U.S. equipment for the project, and he dealt directly with the firm. But he said that one day in discussing a delivery problem, a Shabakkat manager told him, “The issue was not with Shabakkat but with Exit40.” He also said “someone told me that we should never use this name (Exit40) in any kind of emails or conversations.”

According to archive.org, which archives websites, Exit40’s site in 2006 described the firm as a privately held, “leading independent wholesale distributor of IT products” that was headquartered in Switzerland, with offices in Dubai, Florida, Switzerland and India. The site also included this boast: “Exit40’s procurement executives source hard to find or locally constrained products for customers.”

Kenya: IEBC Tender Team Quits Over Biometric Deal


 

AllAfrica.com

BY MOSOKU GEOFFREY

July 16th, 2012

Uncertainty hangs over the process of awarding the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) solution kits contract after the IEBC tender committee stepped aside last week. The team quit following weeks of squabbles pitting some IEBC commissioners against its secretariat and they have been tussling over which firm is the most suitable to be awarded the tender.

The Praxedes Tororey-led committee handed in their resignation on Friday, only days after CEO James Oswago appeared to reject their second report for the multibillion-shilling tender award. Oswago had written to the Public Procurement and Oversight Authority (PPOA) seeking guidance on the recommendation to award the tender to Face Technologies of South Africa that emerged third in cost evaluation.

Face Tech, which quoted Sh4.63 billion, was ranked third by the commission’s technical evaluation committee behind 4G Identity Solutions of India and Symphony of Kenya with bids of Sh3.76 billion and Sh3.98 billion respectively. The committee also short-listed OnTrack of Israel which was asking for Sh8.31 billion to carry out the contract of supplying IEBC with the electronic voter registration kits.

Earlier the committee had recommended the award to 4G Solutions of India but the report was returned for reassessment when claims cropped up that the firm had been blacklisted in India. A team of eight officers of the technical committee travelled to India in May on a due diligence mission. The technical team reportedly said that 4G had been cleared of the performance queries.

Sources within the commission now say some commissioners are pushing for Face Tech to be given the tender due to its experience having conducted voter registration in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Lesotho and Sri Lanka. Their argument is that even though 4G was the lowest bidder, it has no experience in voter registration, having only been involved in Identity Card registration in India.

Out of the the 28 firms that bid for the tender, only Face Tech (55m US$), Canadian firm Code (56mUS$), and OnTrack of Israel (99m pounds) had the experience of having registered voters. This is said to have informed the decision to consider Face Tech, which came second in financial evaluation and number one in technical evaluation. OnTrack emerged number one in financial evaluation. However in price quotation, 4G emerged the cheapest.

Procurement expert Dennis Omondi argues that the price of the bidder is not the automatic consideration when awarding a tender but the experience and financial stability of the firm also matter. “If number one or even number two are disqualified for any reason, the Act allows procurement entity to evaluate up to the time they get a contractor who best meets their objectives,” Omondi says.

Omondi argues that the law provides for room in price negotiation before a contract is signed. However, Oswago said the law envisages the lowest bidder be awarded the contract. “You have to look at the law and see what it provides,” Oswago said. He further argued that the tender and evaluation committees are bound by law to work within the budget and available funds for that specific procurement of goods or service.

Section 26 (3) of the Procurement and Public Disposal Act of 2005 states; “All Public Procurement shall be (a) within the approved budget of the procuring entity and shall be planned by the procuring entity concerned through an annual procurement plan.” Oswago told the Star that “IEBC wrote to Treasury and sought Sh3.4 billion which we were provided with as it was within our annual plan and therefore I don’t think the tender committee will work outside this amount. I will defend my officers with my life if their report is within the law”.

The current stalemate is threatening to derail the process ad return the country back to the manual registers that the Johann Krieglar Report condemned for being responsible for the 2007 general election debacle. The IEBC has announced that it will begin a new voter registration exercise next month, and it is not clear which system will be used. Some 19 million eligible voters will be targeted. Yesterday, Oswago said he has not received the tender committee’s resignation letter, and the process will not be affected by the move. “I want to assure Kenyans that come 3rd or 4th of December, the county will have a new voters register using BVR.”

In 2010, Code Inc of Canada was awarded the tender for a pilot project in eight constituencies across the country and although Code was among the 28 initial firms and tendered for 55m US$ (Sh4.6b), it was knocked out by the technical committee.

 

Zambia: Witness testifies against Dora


Zambia Daily Mail

By JIMMY CHIBUYE

July 13th, 2012

FORMER minister of Communications Transport Dora Siliya issued instructions to halt the contract for the supply, delivery, installation and commissioning of Zambia air traffic management surveillance radar system awarded to Thales Air Systems of South Africa , a State witness has testified.
Former Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) director-general David Kapitolo said Siliya instructed the then permanent secretary Eustern Mambwe to halt the process and retender the duly awarded contract because of alleged corruption. Mr Kapitolo however said the only person who can make variations for the cancellation of the tender awarded by the Central Tender Committee (CTC) is the minister of Finance, who is the chairperson of the CTC and the variations should be done through a statutory instrument.

He was testifying in a case in which Siliya, who is MMD Petauke Central member of Parliament, is charged with two counts of abuse of authority of office, contrary to the Laws of Zambia.The tender for supply, delivery, installation and commissioning of a Zambia Air Traffic Management Surveillance Radar System was for Kenneth Kaunda and Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International airports.

“I received a letter which was not directed to me but to Ministry of Communications and Transport permanent secretary Eustern Mambwe from the minister asking him [Dr Mambwe] to halt the tender and retender the process because the best evaluated bidder, Thales Air Systems, was not a manufacturer,” he said.

Mr Kapitolo said the procurement process and tender awarded to Thales Air Systems of South Africa was conducted in accordance with the ZPPA rules, up to the selection of the best evaluation bidder and notification but Siliya interjected. He said Selex Systemi Integrati was not among the bidders who submitted their documents for the tender of the radars because their bidding documents were rejected for being delivered late. Mr Kapitolo said he received a letter from Dr Mambwe, seeking the cancellation of the tender awarded by the CTC but he advised that the contract cannot be cancelled by an individual. He said he replied to Dr Mambwe’s letter and advised him that he cannot ask the CTC to cancel the tender because the manufacturer who authorised Thales Air Systems to bid was a reputable institution capable of making the radars.

Mr Kapitolo said unfortunately his letter to Dr Mwambwe was leaked to the media, forcing then President Rupiah Banda to set up a tribunal to investigate the matter. He said after the tribunal’s verdict which cleared Siliya of abusing her office, his contract of employment was terminated.
Mr Kapitolo also said the ZPPA received an anonymous letter alleging that the awarding of a contract to Thales Air Systems was marred by corruption and it should be halted. He said after investigations, it was revealed that the allegations contained in the anonymous letter were a ploy to halt the procurement process so that it could be redone and allow Selex Systemi Integrati to be part of the bidding process.
Mr Kapitolo said the permanent secretary is the purchaser and buyer of any ministry.

It is alleged that Siliya between February 20, 2008 and April 20, 2009 in Lusaka, employed as Minister of Communications and Transport, abused the authority of her office, by directing the cancellation of a duly awarded tender. The tender was for the supply, delivery, installation and commissioning of a radar system to Thales Air Systems South Africa, whose implementation was frustrated. This act was prejudicial to the rights or interests of the Government of the Republic of Zambia. Particulars of the second offence are that during the same period, in breach of laid down procedure, Siliya did accept a purportedly free offer from Selex Systemi Integrati for the repair of a Radar Head at Lusaka International Airport, as a result of which government actually paid K1, 943, 932, 360, an act prejudicial to the rights or interests of the Government of the Republic of Zambia.
The matter will come up today for continued hearing.

Spies in Africa’s Skies: New Contractors for the Pentagon


CorpWatch.org

By Patrap Chatterjee

June 18th, 2012

In 1994, a Turkish couple named Fatih and Emren Ozmen, bought up a nondescript company named Sierra Nevada Corporation in the small town of Sparks, just outside of Reno, Nevada.

Just over a decade later, on the other side of the country, in Eatontown, New JerseyScott Crockett and David Lewis, two African-American communications officers who were deployed with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, started up a company called R-4, Inc.

Today these two companies are now at the forefront of the covert war in Africa, where they operate small Swiss aircraft to spy on behalf of the U.S. Special Operations Command. They help support secret missions all over the continent, working most closely with AfriCom, the U.S. command for Africa, run out of Stuttgart, Germany.

The Ozmens company and R-4 work for Operation Tusker Sand, run out of Entebbe, Uganda. A similar mission using private pilots named Operation Creek Sand is run out of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

A Washington Post series by Craig Whitlock, with help from ace researcher Julie Tate, has unmasked some of the key details of the African spying operation that includes covert U.S. bases in Arba Minch, Ethiopia; Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti; Nouakchott, Mauritania; Manda Bay, Kenya; Nzara, South Sudan and Victoria, Seychelles.

The Ozmens have grown from a 20 person operation in 1994 to a 2,100 employee outfit today. Their pilots fly Pilatus PC-12s, small Swiss turboprop planes which are “(e)quipped with hidden sensors that can record full-motion video, track infrared heat patterns, and vacuum up radio and cellphone signals, the planes refuel on isolated airstrips favored by African bush pilots, extending their effective flight range by thousands of miles,” according to the Washington Post.

The newspaper says that contractors have been hired to fly as much as 150 hours a month. Also outsourced to the private sector were sensor operators, intelligence analysts, mechanics and linguists. (One of the companies that supplied linguists to the Pentagon in Africa was Mission Essential Personnel)

The road to growth for the Ozmens might have something to do with the fact that they are close friends with Jim Gibbons, the former governor of Nevada, and his wife Dawn Gibbons, whom they took on a holiday in Turkey in 2000. Gibbons was a member of the U.S. Congress at the time and the Las Vegas Review Journal notes that in mid-2004 “he helped Sierra Nevada get a $2 million no-bid federal contract for helicopter landing technology. Throughout that year, the company was paying Dawn Gibbons $2,500 a month as a public relations consultant.” That year the Ozmens company won $42 million in Pentagon contracts.

In 2007, when Gibbons became governor, the federal government investigated how the Ozmens won their classified Pentagon contracts. Dawn Gibbons was unapologetic. “Sierra Nevada got a bargain for the work I did. … Believe me, they got their money’s worth,” she told the Associated Press.

What was their company selling at the time? A system called Force 4 which “offers real-time video, individual emergency response tracking, two-way voice and message traffic with command center interaction for terrorism preparedness and response.”

Today Sierra Nevada is one of the key contractors in the drone war around the world. They sell Tactilink, a voice and data relay system for drones, they support Gorgon Stare, a multi-camera video suite touted for its ability to spy on whole cities at once and they make landing gear for the Predator drones that the Central Intelligence Agency uses in Pakistan and Yemen to kill “terrorists” from the sky.

The Pentagon and the CIA have long used private contractors for covert wars. Air America and Air Asia were the front companies used to bomb Cambodia and Laos for president Lyndon Johnson. Bigger, more established companies, like Northrop Grumman were used to spy in Colombia under president Bill Clinton

So it seems only appropriate that the next major Democratic president, Barack Obama, would adopt the same strategy of clandestine private contractors like Sierra Nevada and R4 for covert wars, this time in Africa.

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