The Colombian Justice has suspended the Colombian Foreign Minister, Alvaro Leyva, for a period of three months for the case of the suspension of last year’s passport bidding process. The case has been generating controversy in the country since it became known last September, since the process was declared void, despite the existence of a bid in a contest valued at 559,000 million pesos.
According to the decision, Leyva could have incurred a possible fault by participating in the pre-contractual stage within the public bidding process, disregarding the principles of transparency, economy and responsibility of state contracting, having declared the public bidding process void, through a resolution in September last year, without the reasons for such declaration being accredited.
Alvaro Leyva assumed the role of legal representative of the Revolving Fund of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on which the awarding of the millionaire contract depends, so legally he was the one who led the process. On September 5, 2023, the suspension of the proceeding was requested, which would be resumed on September 13, 2023, when it was suspended again.
Complaints about the bidding process
According to the accused entity, Minister Leyva did not justify a cause that prevented the objective selection of the contractor. On the contrary, the Evaluation Committee of the process had awarded in the final evaluation report a score of 1000 points to the bidder UT Pasaportes 2023 (Thomas Greg’s) and had recommended to the authorizing officer to award the public bidding.
Since 2006, Thomas Greg & Sons has had the contract for the issuance and printing of passports in Colombia. For September 2023, this was the only bidder to win the tender. In fact, it belongs to the Temporary Union Pasaportes 2023, made up of Thomas Greg Express, Seguridad Movil de Colombia, Thales DIS Finland Oy and Thales Colombia S.A.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs suspended the bidding, which was denounced by Thomas Greg & Sons. Since then, there has been no agreement and despite warnings from the Attorney General’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not been able to reach an agreement with the company that, until last year, was responsible for the service.
Multi-million dollar lawsuit against the state
Thomas Greg & Sons sued the Colombian State for 117,000 million pesos and a legal mess began that has lasted until today. In December, Leyva affirmed that the state would win the lawsuit filed by the Colombian multinational in court.
According to what was stated today by the Procurator’s Office, the Minister of Foreign Affairs “would have incurred two disciplinary offenses, provisionally qualified as very serious committed with malice.”
According to the investigation, initiated on September 20, 2023, Alvaro Leyva would have committed a serious misconduct by declaring void the tender for the issuing of passports because he made the decision without having factual, legal and technical grounds. In doing so, he would have violated the principles governing state contracting.
The Procurator’s Office also explained that the suspension of the minister was taken to prevent the official from continuing to incur the same disciplinary offenses he is currently accused of. The chancellor is the authorizing officer of the expenditure of his ministry and is also the director of the new contractual process for the manufacture of the passports.
The defense of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
For its part, the defense of the Minister of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly asked for the disciplinary process to be closed. The lawyers argue that the Procurator’s Office has no authority to rule on the legality or illegality of a contractual process, a function that corresponds to the Council of State.
“The Minister of Foreign Affairs had the power to declare the suspension of the contractual process, which became necessary when he resumed the competence that had been delegated to the Secretary General. This power was exercised in a reasonable manner and for a very short period of time to evaluate the situation and make a substantive decision,” said Leyva’s lawyer, Mauricio Dueñas.
In the meantime, the options for Thomas Greg & Sons to continue with the multimillion legal action against the state continue to weigh heavily on public finances. The company affirms that its rights as a contractor were violated because, at the end of the bidding process, it was the only bidder and, despite this, the ministry declared the bidding process void.