TigerIT, one of the largest IT firms of Bangladesh, was blacklisted today by the World Bank. The news broke after a report by Prothom Alo based on a sanction issued by World Bank. In the sanction dated back on April 24, 2019, the Sanctions Board of World Bank imposed sanctions of debarment on TigerIT Bangladesh and Mr. Ziaur Rahman, the CEO of TigerIT for a period of nine years and six months, and six years and six months respectively.
According to a detailed report published by the World Bank, the sanction of disbarment was imposed on Tiger IT for collusive, corrupt, and obstructive practices in the Elections Commission’s Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) Project. TigerIT was tasked with establishing a secure, accurate, and reliable national identification system that serves as the basis for more efficient and transparent service delivery.
Looking back at the project and the allegations
Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services Project, popularly known as the IDEA project, was a flagship project by the Election Commission of Bangladesh to establish a comprehensive National Identification (NID) system based on the foundation of the voter database. This project was expected to enhance the country’s capacity to integrate the usage of ICT to secure the identities of citizens, compile data, counter leakage, promote inclusion and obtain greater reliability and efficiency in the management of the data.
The project became effective on August 28, 2011, and closed on February 28, 2018, and according to the World Bank website, the budget of the project was north of US $219 Million. On April 28, 2014, the bidding document of the project was issued by the Election Commission for smart national ID cards. TigerIT won the bid and signed on to provide their services on January 14, 2015, at a worth of US $96.5 Million (nearly BDT 800 Crore).
World Bank in the report alleged that TigerIT and its foreign contractor engaged in schemes to fix the contract's technical specifications in favour of the contractor. According to a source requesting anonymity and working at the Election Commission at the time, the contractor was Oberthur Technologies, a French IT firm with a sketchy past. According to the report, due to such collusion, the contract was tendered in an artificial and non-competitive manner that was not reflective of true market conditions.
World Bank also alleged that TigerIT arranged for a €730,000 payment to the government official in order to increase the volume of NID cards under the contract and to secure the contract for the contractor. TigerIT also apparently solicited from the contractor a bribe for a government official in connection with the hologram security feature for the NID cards. At least €2,160,000 was paid to an entity controlled by Ziaur Rahman on the pretence that some of those funds would, in turn, be paid to the government official.
Furthermore, in the hearing held on March 5, 2019, at the World Bank Group's headquarters in Washington, DC, World Bank alleged that TigerIT didn’t provide all the necessary documents and material evidence (i.e. documents and audit reports).
However, TigerIT contended all of these allegations in the hearing saying most of it doesn’t within the scope of the contract and the entire allegations of World Bank was based on flawed grounds.
The reporter tried to contact Rifat Abedin, VP, TigerIT for a comment regarding the issue but after repeated attempt, his phone wasn't available. The reporter also tried the landline of TigerIT but no one picked up the phone.