Wednesday Feb 22, 2017
LONDON: Pakistan High Commission has promised that Expressions of Interest (EOI) related to the outsourcing of visa services are being examined as per laid down criteria and rules and it will be ensured that everything is a done in a transparent manner.
A spokesman said that four companies have expressed interest in acquiring visa services and it will be ensured that the visa services contract is given to the most deserving company with the appropriate company.
However, the spokesman refused to answer questions about the registration of a company only few hours ahead of submission of EOI. Records of the Companies House show that
A company called Shahzad Visa Services registered itself in the Companies House only 7 days before the tender close date, giving rise to suspicion that the company was purposely set up solely for this tender.
When asked if this company had backing of anyone influential from the Federal Government, the spokesman refused to provide answer but added: “Once the process is completed, all details/information will be shared in a transparent manner.”
A source in Pakistan High Commission has however confided that a top government figure was supporting the company and wants the visa contract given to the new company which has no relevant experience either in the UK market or in visa services handling but has major interest in oil and gas sector in Pakistan.
The Pakistan High Commission in London officially closed the tender for visa facilitation service provider for UK in the last week of January. Only four companies submitted tenders to participate: Shahzad Visa Services, Sentinel Group Security limited, TCS express worldwide & Gerry's Offshore (Visa Services).
TCS Express worldwide and Gerry’s has experience of visa handling and courier services over many years. Gerry’s is known widely because it has been handling visa services for Pakistan high commission for the past five years and provides visa facilitation services in Pakistan for the British high commission.
Sentinel Group Security LTD, established in 2005, has been dealing in business Security services and provides security solutions to different clients and organisations.
It’s the registration of a company just a week ahead of the closing EOI date that has raised eyebrows.
Pakistan High Commission says that it intends to acquire services of a reputable visa facilitation service provider which should be a legally registered in UK as a company; must have adequate experience and capacity to handle a large service; should get security clearance from Pakistani.
Sources in the Foreign Office Pakistan have told that the “expression of interest” was rushed out in hurry and there is a danger that data of Pakistan could fall into the hands of third parties and no legal recourse will be available in that kind of scenario.
The same issue had risen almost six years ago when a company was registered all of a sudden in London and attempts at the government level were made to give contact to that company but the then head of NADRA Dr Tariq Malik intervened and didn’t allow the contract stressing that there was lack of transparency and clear danger existed that data of Pakistanis could fall into the hands of unscrupulous elements. Contract was awarded to Gerry’s Offshore after Pakistan’s security institutions gave clearance to this company because of the fact that this company has base in Pakistan and therefore answerable locally.
Pakistan High Commission spokesman said that data protection will be ensured through legally binding contract with the service provider but there was no answer on what will happen if the company hyhappens to be based out of the UK with no links to Pakistan.