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Biometric data collector, UIDAI agrees to share contract agreement with French and US biometric technology companies

Written By Gopal Krishna on Saturday, September 14, 2013 | 8:07 AM

UIDAI asked to furnish missing pages from the contract agreement
Earlier, CIC has ruled, “Any agreement entered into by the government is an agreement deemed to have been entered into on behalf of the and in the interest of ‘We the people’”
On September 10, 2013, Central Information Commission (CIC) heard the matter of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)'s refusal to share copy of all contracts given to French and US biometric technology companies, namely, L1 Identity Solutions and Accenture respectively. L-1 was a US company till recently.  
Mrs Sushma Singh, the Information Commissioner gave the attached letter (No.F12013/096/2012-RTI-UIDAI) of UIDAI to Gopal Krishna, Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), New Delhi representative of appellant, Shri Mathew Thomas from Bangalore. UIDAI’s letter written to CIC submits that "contractual obligation in respect of BSP (Biometric Solution Provider) contracts has expired. Therefore, UIDAI has no objection in sharing the following contract details:-
a) Copy of contract of UIDAI with M/s L1 Identity Solutions for Biometric Technology; and
b) Copy of contract of UIDAI with M/s Accenture for Biometric Technology"
Following this UIDAI gave the copies of the contract. After examining these documents with regard to the M/s Accenture for Biometric Technology, it has come to notice that the first 237 pages appear to be in order but after that there is a one pager titled Annexure J Technical Bid Technical Bid as submitted by M/s Accenture Services Pvt Ltd. The Technical Bid document is missing. After that there is a one pager titled Annexure K Commercial Bid Commercial Bid as submitted by M/s Accenture Services Pvt Ltd. The Commercial Bid document is missing.
With regard to the M/s L1 Identity Solutions for Biometric Technology, I notice that the first 236 pages appear to be in order but after that there is a one pager titled Annexure I Non-Disclosure Agreement as submitted by M/s L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company Private Limited. But this document is missing. After that there is a one pager titled Annexure J Technical Bid as submitted by M/s L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company Private Limited.The Technical Bid document is missing. After that there is a one pager titled Annexure K Commercial Bid as submitted by M/s L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company Private Limited.The Commercial Bid document is missing.
CFCL has written to UIDAI seeking the missing pages from the copies of the contract.
In a letter to UIDAI, CFCL has submitted that the reasoning of UIDAI in its letter to CIC dated September 10, 2013 stating that "contractual obligation in respect of BSP (Biometric Solution Provider) contracts has expired. Therefore, UIDAI has no objection in sharing the following contract details :- a) Copy of contract of UIDAI with M/s L1 Identity Solutions for Biometric Technology; and b) Copy of contract of UIDAI with M/s Accenture for Biometric Technology"  is flawed in the light of the previous attached judgment of CIC.
Under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Public Information Officer (PIO) cannot deny information citing commercial confidence for agreements between a public authority and private party. While giving this judgment, CIC said “The claim of 'commercial confidence' in denying access to agreements between private parties and the masters of the public authorities—citizens—runs counter to the principles of the Right to Information.
“Any agreement entered into by the government is an agreement deemed to have been entered into on behalf of the and in the interest of ‘We the people’. Hence if any citizen wants to know the contents of such an agreement he is in the position of a principal asking his agent to disclose to him the terms of the agreement entered into by the agent on behalf of the principal. No agent can refuse to disclose any such information to his principal,” the Central Information Commission (CIC) said in its order dated 27 July 2009.
The Commission was of the view that “The objectives of the RTI Act would be defeated if public authorities claim exemption based on a claim that ‘terms and condition were much more favourable to the government’, and therefore these must be kept away from the Public. In fact public feels that quite often the contrary is the case,” the Commission noted. The CIC observed,  “Any so called imaginary moral or reciprocal obligation cannot be permitted to subvert a solemn constitutional and legal obligation”  and directed the PIO to provide copy of the agreement.
For the sake of record, CFCL has informed UIDAI that in the contract agreement between the President of India, as purchaser and M/s L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company, as a "Biometrc Solution Provider" it has been officially admitted that the latter is a corporation of U.S.A. based in Delaware as of August 24, 2010.  It has submitted that L-1 has since been bought over by French corporate conglomerate, Safran Group after the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) was convinced that there are no unresolved national security concerns with respect to the transaction. L-1 Identity Solutions announced agreement to be acquired by Safran on September 20, 2010.
CFCL has submitted to UIDAI that from the contract agreement between the President of India, as purchaser and M/s Accenture Services Pvt Ltd as a "Biometrc Solution Provider" dated September 1, 2010 it is evident that it has not been disclosed that Accenture Services Pvt Ltd is a subsidiary of Dublin, Ireland based Accenture plc, a US company. Till January 1, 2001 it was known as Andersen Consulting. As a consequence of French corporate conglomerate Safran’s purchase of US company L-1 Identity Solutions, the de-duplication contracts of UIDAI’s Centralized Identities Data Repository (CIDR) and Home Ministry’s National Population Register (NPR) which was given to foreign companies on July 30, 2010 to three companies now lies with two companies of French and US origin namely, Safran Group and Accenture.  
L-1 has been a US company that admittedly worked with intelligence agencies of USA. Now it has been purchased by French company, Safran Group in which French Govt also has a stake and which has forty year partnership with China. The latter is a US company that works admittedly with security agencies of USA.
CFCL has asked UIDAI whether there has been any fresh agreement between UIDAI and Safran Group and its subsidiaries. It also wants to know as to who all are the biometric solution providers after the expiry of the “contractual obligations” with L-1 Identity Solution and Accenture.  
CFCL has also asked for the 'Strategic Vision on the UIDAI Project' document that was prepared and submitted to the processes committee of the Planning Commission (set up in July 2006) by Wipro Ltd (consultant for the design phase and programme management phase of the pilot UIDAI project). This document too seems to be missing.
For Details: Col. Mathew Thomas, former defense scientist, Bangalore
Mb:09449020401, E-mail:mathew.111938@gmail.com
Gopal Krishna, Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), New
Delhi, Mb: 09818089660, E-mail: gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com
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