BoN staying away from BIPA tiff

The Bank of Namibia is reportedly to have opted to stay away from the controversy surrounding procurement of the Integrated Business Registration System (IBRS) by the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA).

The central bank is said to be viewing the matter as an internal squabble among BIPA executives on how to implement the system, sources similar with the matter said.

The implementing of the system is key if Namibia is to avoid being greylisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for falling short of certain international standards for combatting money laundering and other serious financial crimes.

Sources who are working on the committees set up the government to implement measures asked by FATF to avoid a greylisting said although the implementation of the Beneficial Ownership Register is important as demanded by FATF, the Bank of Namibia does not want to get involved with the affairs at BIPA as it regards it as an internal affair.

The government is said to be asked New Zealand company, Foster Moore to introduce the IBRS in Namibia. This in turn is said to have started squabbles among BIPA executives on whether to go with Foster Moore or look for other alternatives systems on the market.

Ockert Jansen, BIPA’s marketing and corporate communications executive declined to comment on the Bank of Namibia’s involvement in the matter but provided a statement explaining the matter from BIPA’s stand point.

The Bank of Namibia’s Communication Department did not respond to questions on the matter by Thursday.

Elijah Mukubonda, the chief information officer in the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade & SME Development did not respond to questions sent by Observer Money on the matter.

However, BIPA said in the statement provided by Jansen that the procurement of the online registration and business ownership register system that the procurement process has been followed thus far.

Jansen said in December 2021, BIPA advertised a bid through Open International Advertised Bidding, giving opportunity to both local and international bidders, thereby promoting a more competitive process.

“BIPA could no longer proceed with the procurement of its iBRS, having exceeded its threshold as a Tier 2 Public Entity and therefore officially handed over the bid to the Central Procurement Board of Namibia,” he said.

The Minister of Finance in August 2022, subsequently declined to grant an exemption to BIPA on this procurement for the appointment of the most responsive bid, he said.

BIPA has been informed by the CPBN that the bid has advanced to the stage where it has been presented to the CPBN Board for endorsement on 6 July.

Jansen said when BIPA initially advertised a bid for its IBRS, it did not include the procurement of the beneficial ownership (BO) and Trust and Deeds registers. These are additional registers to that of business registration.

The requirement for BIPA to procure a BO register came in recent months through recommendations from FATF, the global anti-money laundering, anti-terrorism financing and anti-proliferation financing watchdog.

“The recommendations were made in a Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) drawn up by FATF’s regional arm known as the Eastern and Southern African Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG).

Therefore, the N$20 million budgeted for the iBRS is bound to increase due additional requirement such as the BO register,” he said.

Jansen said BIPA has not entered into any agreement with Foster Moore, or any other registry provider.

Foster Moore developed the registry system for Botswana through a mutual bilateral government to government cooperative agreement in 2020.

He said Foster Moore and NRD Companies are the only two known global registry providers that is endorsed by Open Ownership, a global driver for beneficial ownership disclosures.

Jansen said in order to avert possible Greylisting, the BIPA Board has written to its shareholders, giving assurance that BIPA will work around the clock, within the confines of the relevant legislative provisions, to finalise the procurement of the systems.

He added that on On 06 July 2023, BIPA once again sought exemption from the Minister of Finance in order for BIPA to solicit bids from suppliers/developers of the IBRS and BO systems respectively in order to address the looming deadline set under the MER for possible Greylisting.

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