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Afghanistan’s “Real Time Data Management” Contract a Yay or Nay?

in Afghan Business

Afghanistan’s “Real Time Data Management” Contract a Yay or Nay?

The Afghan government recently signed a contract with an American company on the establishment of the Real Time Data Management System that will ensure transparency in the collection of the 10% tax on mobile phone top-ups.

The news made quite a buzz as the millions of mobile phone users have long been skeptical of where the tax money from their top-ups go.

This $11 million contract came 3 years after the 10% tax on top-ups was imposed on all mobile phone users. The move sparked debates among the citizens and some lawmakers as they voiced concerns over the lack of transparency in the management of the tax collection.

However, the contract has received massive criticism from one of Afghanistan’s biggest ICT experts, Farshid Ghyasi.

Ghyasi has criticized the contract, pointing out major flaws and fishy details.

Ghyasi claims that the contract is awarded to Bustos Group LLC, which is not registered in Afghanistan.

“Bustos Group LLC is not registered in Afghanistan, the closest company name is Bustos Networking Services registered under the name of Khusboo, wife of Bustos Group LLCs CEO. The company license is already expired on June 14, 2017,” says Ghyasi in his op-ed on Khaama Press.

He further adds that Bustos Group LLC has no track record of implementing any IT or telecom projects in the US or any other countries that the company has claimed in its proposal.

“The CEO of the company is the ex-CEO of Safi Airways, a national airline that no more operates in Afghanistan. Sources say the company went out of business during the time Mr. Bustos was working for it,” claims Ghyasi.

Moreover, Bustos Group LLC was not among the companies shortlisted for the RFP round. The 4 companies that were shortlisted were:

  1. Arraxxee SAS  Paris(Lead) In association with Paradigm Capital and My ICT (Sub-Consultant), a local IT company (France based company)
  2. Vanrise Solutions S.A.L Lebanon (Lebanon based company)
  3. PT Astra Graphia Information Technology (AGIT) (Indonesia based company)
  4. Prologix LLC (lead) In association with Subex (UAE based company)

According to Ghyasi, the National Procurement Authority cancelled the tenders for the above companies without evaluating their financial proposals. For unknown reasons Bustos Group LLC wins the contract awarded at $11 million while Vanrise Solutions and Subex Services had proposed a budget of $7 to $8 million.

Ghyasi further adds that Bustos Group LLC was registered in Nevada, USA a day after the contract was awarded. The company is said to be specialized in aviation with “zero experience in even a single simple IT project implementation”.

“The company’s website was nothing more than a website template installed with dummy information and since yesterday, the company’s website is not accessible as well.”

And even worse is that the company’s subcontractor, LATRO Services, will be carrying out all the job of the contract. LATRO Services is currently invovled with GSM operations in Afghanistan such as Roshan, AWCC and others in the area of SIM fraud detection.

“Why wasn’t this contract directly awarded to LATRO Services who will be doing the job?”

Ghyasi also pointed out that the Afghan government never publicized the financial proposal of the awarded company. A copy of the company’s past experience was posted in a Facebook statement by the Ministry of Communications and IT which included a project carried out by the company for USAID Promote Project in 2015.

“PROMOTE project had not even started [then] and Bustos Group LLC never existed,” claims Ghyasi.

“We believe there is a complete lack of transparency in awarding and having worked on large scale IT projects in the country for the past 14 years, I see this contract value as complete rip off and as a citizen of this country and the President of Afghanistan’s IT Companies Association (AITCA), I have concerns over this,” says Ghyasi.

“The public demands H.E President Ghani to immediately suspend the project and carry out an investigation into the award of the project and ensure proper justifications are given for the contract award. This also raises question on the procurement entities such as NPA and involved ministries such as Ministry of Communications & IT, Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Finance on how recklessly this project was awarded without a due diligence process.”

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