The government has officially terminated its pre-inspection contract with a Swiss firm after resolving issues concerning a $6.8 million outstanding debt, and has taken bids for another contractor.
But in a twist, Societe Generale de Surveillance of Geneva said it has submitted a bid to become the contractor again.
“Finance Minister Keat Chhon acknowledged the amount the government owed us,” Richard Hines, SGS’s national chief executive, said Tuesday. He added that the government has agreed to repay the debt by the end of August in installments. “This is a positive indication of the government. That’s why we’ve participated in the new bidding.”
The official termination notice by the government was issued in late November, after representatives of the government and SGS had verbally agreed to it in mid-October, officials said.
A senior official with the Ministry of Finance said Tuesday that the government expects to select a new contractor by February.
“This is a breakthrough—the government can proceed the open tender,” said the official who declined to be named. “We had several issues with SGS and we now finally can select a new company.”
According to the customs department, “several internationally recognized companies” have submitted bids. Officials, however, did not identify any company names or countries of origin.
The role of a pre-inspection contractor is deemed critical in ensuring that taxes are collected properly.
The latest development comes nearly five months after SGS suspended its major inspection operations, claiming the government should pay back the $6.8 million outstanding balance first. The government claimed that it was hamstrung from paying the 0.75 percent commission because of a lack of budget.
Government officials said in October that termination was the only way to seek a new contractor to resume pre-shipment inspection. However, SGS maintained at that time the outstanding fee issue should be solved first before terminating the contract. Even with the process now in place, a new contractor likely won’t start its operations until April, a government official indicated Tuesday. That means some four more months without an independent pre-inspection process.
Customs officials have said that the government needs a contractor that will transfer technology and technical skills to Cambodia.
The Swiss firm had inspected goods entering Cambodia and collected duties and taxes since August 1995.