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Pakistani visa services awarded to company with no past experience

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  1. The Eagle

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    Pakistani visa services awarded to company with no past experience

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    Photo: Reuters FILE

    LONDON: Pakistan High Commission has awarded the visa facilitation service contract, from Britain to Pakistan, to a firm with no relevant experience.

    Three companies were shortlisted for the financial bid, TCS Express Worldwide, Gerry’s Offshore and Sentinel Group Securities. The bid was won by Sentinel Group Securities being the lowest bidder from the three.

    The new company Sentinel Group, which has won the contract, has experience in providing security services, as shown on its website, but has no previous experience in visa handling or providing visa customer services.

    The other two contenders, Gerry’s and TCS, have been providing visa services to clients in Pakistan over decades. Gerry’s is also the current service provider for the Pakistan High Commission in the UK for the last five years.

    Sentinel Group Securities (SGS) doesn’t meet the two key requirements that were essential for any company to qualify in order to contest the bidding. The tender’s prerequisites published by PPRA on their website were “the company must have adequate relevant experience or be able to demonstrate the capability to provide the requisite services” and “must possess necessary experience and capacity to handle a large number of visa applications.”

    In a statement, Pakistan High Commission said: “The Visa Facilitation Services Selection Committee of the High Commission opened the financial bids from the shortlisted companies for Visa Facilitation Services at the Chancery premises. In order to ensure transparency, all the bidders brought along their sealed bids, which were opened at 04:30pm in their presence at the High Commission. The bidding process is now complete and following all legal and codal formalities, the contract will be signed by the High Commission with the lowest bidder.

    But Pakistan High Commission spokesman refused to comment on what were the merits followed to ensure only companies, capable of conducting such services, were shortlisted; whether PHC demanded for a performance assurance by the new companies contending for the tender and if so, what were the assurances.

    The spokesman answered some of the questions and said that the short-listing of three companies was in accordance with the government rules; the contestants were shortlisted after a prequalification process that was carried out for all firms that had submitted their expression of interest. All shortlisted companies will have to follow the existing set of guidelines for ensuring maximum convenience for the visa applicants, he said.

    The spokesman said that all companies have met the prequalification criteria for short-listing, but didn’t explain how a security company was suitable to provide visa services.

    He said: “The winning company will have to comply with the legal requirements contained in the contractual agreement therein. Maximum relief and facilitation will be ensured for the community.”

    A source in Pakistan High Commission said that the Sentinel Group had received the security clearance from all Pakistani institutions, but had no presence in Pakistan. Previously it was mandatory for any firm taking part in the bidding process to have presence in the country.

    Another source in the PHC said that it was made essential for all companies, previously taking part in the bidding, to have interests/offices in Pakistan for better security and accountability, however, this fundamental requirement has also been bypassed this time.

    He said that having presence in Pakistan is particularly important to hold companies accountable in case of breach of sensitive information or failure to deliver, but having no presence in Pakistan means no accountability.

    Geo News sent questions to Sentinel Sunday morning, but no answers were received by the time of filing of this report.
     
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