Wednesday 17 Apr 2024
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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on February 5, 2024 - February 11, 2024

MORE than 10 companies have submitted their proposals for the National Integrated Immigration System (NIISe) project, which seeks to integrate the border management systems under the various agencies of the Home Ministry (KDN).

Leading the pack are Datasonic Group Bhd and Scicom (MSC) Bhd, which are involved in integrating data with certain segments of border control systems. Sources say both companies have come up with strong technical and financial proposals to design, build and maintain the integration of backroom operations under KDN that involve border controls.

Other companies in the race include Bestinet Sdn Bhd, MyEG Services Bhd, Microlink Solutions Bhd, Infomina Bhd, REDtone Digital Bhd and Sapura Group.

Datasonic provides the government with chips for passports and identity cards and supplies and maintains the auto-gate systems that come with facial and fingerprint biometrics at international airports. The company is believed to be teaming up with a German technology partner for the NIISe project.

Scicom provides an international student management system for the government in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE). The company has developed an in-house system to manage the country’s international student population, processing their visas and health documents. Scicom is essentially the bridge that integrates data between the institutes of higher learning, MOHE and KDN.

Scicom has also developed an in-house border management system that is being marketed in developing countries such as Sri Lanka under a public private partnership. The model entails the company undertaking some portions of the project, such as execution and implementation, while the government takes on some of the responsibilities such as facilitating regulatory requirements. The system is designed in-house with a view of lowering costs, especially in emerging economies that cannot afford a high immigration integration system.

Bestinet and MyEG also provide services related to the Immigration Department. Bestinet has a system that primarily processes the travel documents of migrant workers, including health check-ups and fingerprint biometric registration. MyEG’s services are also related to migrant workers but leaning more towards permit renewals.

Sources say the competition will be close with the crucial criterion being the most cost-effective and robust system to ensure the integration, mapping and matching of data from several key agencies under KDN.

“The project entails integration and cross referencing of data from the Registration Department, Immigration Department and other departments. The system must be able to cross-check with data from all the entry and exit points in the country as well as enforcement agencies,” says a source.

“The costing of the project is also a factor to be considered. But the positive note is that the cost of implementing the project has come down significantly in the last few years,” adds the source.

KDN called for proposals to design, implement and maintain the NIISe on Dec 15 last year. The tender briefing was held on Dec 20 and the bids closed on Jan 10. The tender came about after the government terminated the contract that was previously awarded to IRIS Corp Bhd.

The NIISe involves integrating data from 13 modules of the existing border control system. Among the 13 are the foreign workers segment, advanced passenger screening system, facial and fingerprint biometrics, professional visit passes, passports and travel documents.

“The NIISe project has attracted a lot of attention in the past but has not successfully taken off yet. Hopefully, the government gets it right this time around,” says an industry executive familiar with the project.

The project had been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Prior to 2018, the project was known as Sistem Kawalan Imigresen Nasional or SKIN. It was awarded to Prestariang Bhd (now known as Awanbiru Technology Bhd or Awantec) at a cost of RM3.9 billion.

The government changed in 2018 and in the following year, the project was terminated. Awantec is locked in an arbitration process with the government and is seeking compensation for the termination.

Following a competitive tender exercise, IRIS Corp was awarded the project in January 2021 for RM1.12 billion. However, IRIS Corp and S5 Systems Sdn Bhd are locked in a dispute on the latter’s role in the NIISe contract. S5 Systems contends that it has a binding joint venture with IRIS in relation to the project, something that the listed company disputes. The matter is before an Arbitral Tribunal.

S5 Systems is linked to the son-in-law of former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. It used to maintain and support the National Enforcement and Registration System (NERS), which maintains personal and biometric information on foreign workers entering the country. NERS charged RM50 for each foreign worker permit issued or renewed.

The NIISe project is supposed to replace the Malaysian Immigration System that is currently being maintained by Heitech Padu Bhd. Surprisingly, Heitech Padu is not a contender for the NIISe project.


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