Securiport CEO speaks

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The Securiport founder and CEO, Dr. Enrique Segura, has defended his company’s twenty-year experience in designing and implementing civil aviation security, border management, immigration control, and threat assessment for governments in different regions around the world.

In a write-up shared with The Standard, Dr Segura said the company uses cutting-edge biometric technology and Intelligent Threat Analysis to identify potential risks and threats. He said the company extended its global formula in The Gambia to support immigration authorities’ efforts with inbound as well as outbound travelers’ safety and airport security.

“Securiport is widely known for its cutting-edge border management technologies, serving governments around the world in preventing criminals from crossing borders undetected and in uncovering unlawful transnational activities,” Dr Segura added.

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The Gambia Government, he added, in meeting the international aviation and border management standards, sought out such services, while keeping in mind the level of tourists that visit The Gambia, and the need to further protect visitors and citizens against international criminals, terrorist etc.

“Securiport first presented its proposal to The Gambia Government in 2016 under legal terms and went into the process through a Technical Working Team composed of government stakeholders who studied, recommended and negotiated the contract with Securiport LLC. The contract with the government ensures that the government is the sole entity owning, maintaining, or sharing traveler data,” he added.

He said all data and servers are exclusively and solely hosted by The Gambia Immigration Department.

“The government has from the beginning of Securiport’s contract maintained absolute and complete control over all information generated over the course of the company’s services to date. Each stakeholder had a role to play, as the Ministry of Justice advised on the process through completion, the Ministry of Tourism contributed throughout the process and was responsible for informing the public and stakeholders including the airlines about the importance and needs of the project.”

Over the past week, there has been significant misinformation about Securiport and The Gambia Government’s procurement process, which prompted the company to order further probe into the company.

“An investigation was made to understand from an independent view what process was actually followed. Securiport holds firmly on their values and has clarified that they are not a backdoor dealing Company; they have a reputable global presence and have no issue with ongoing enquiries by the public and the State ”.

The Securiport CEO added: “It is the responsibility of the government to decide on using the appropriate procurement procedure” referencing the Gambian Public Procurement Act 214 Part VII- Methods of Procurement and their Conditions of Use- Section 39, which cites “the requirement is of a specialized nature or has requirements of public safety or public security which make an open tender method inappropriate.”

Dr. Segura further noted that: “Therefore it is not the responsibility of Securiport to determine for the government the method of procurement. Documents available to Securiport evidently establish the fact that all stakeholders of the Government of the Gambia fully participated in the procurement process, including in the due diligence study tour”.

“They believe they have been put through the Gambian procurement process for such security services implemented at the Banjul International Airport. In fact, an implementation of this magnitude required the support of the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, and other relevant government agencies, which even formed in 2018 a task force to conduct a study tour about such services.

“The evidence is clear on this. The same task force studied the operations and application of the civil aviation and immigration security systems (CAISS) services. Securiport’s services and the security charge is not an unknown fact. Airport security cost is normally economically dependent on passenger density, meaning that countries or regions that generate significantly higher air traffic (more travelers) are more prone to seeing lower security levy charges than countries, such as The Gambia, where passenger density is smaller. With the fees often negotiated with governments to either be included in airline ticket prices or incurred at port of entry and exit of the country, civil aviation services and airport (security, passenger and other) related fees are familiar to governments around the globe.

“Today, Securiport’s legal and moral integrity is in question regarding its contract with the government, irrespective of the lack of evidence of any malpractice. It can be pointed out that the public and stakeholders were not widely sensitized about the rationale and cost prior to operations. Clearly, the government has undergone through the adequate process leading to the final procurement of Securiport services, not fully explained perhaps due to security reasons,” he added.

He further stated: “The question remains: Is this a cost issue, or a process issue? Either way, Securiport maintains today a long-standing history of fully abiding by the laws and rules of countries in which it operates. Business to government relations is never an easy one, but Securiport “provides the government with advanced, proprietary software and hardware to manage their borders.”

“These systems give the government the capability to use multimodal biometrics and travel documents to identify and process travelers through immigration, and to enable advanced analytics to assess travelers for risks such as identity fraud, human trafficking, drug trafficking, terrorism, and other criminal activities.  It is important to know that the government operates and controls the technology and all the data to ensure security,” states Dr. Segura.

An insider at the GCAA who was part of the whole process of awarding the contract said the government felt the need to engage Securiport for surveillance purpose at the airport because the system can detect paedophiles and criminals that fly within countries and lot of other components that the system has that help the country at the time.

“A stakeholder conference was conducted at Immigration Department attended by GIEPA, Ministry of Justice and Civil Aviation to discuss the process of giving the contract. We had three months of discussion on this issue to look at the modalities of the contract. We also went to Sierra Leone on a study tour and met their ministry of interior and intelligence officers to discuss the importance of Securiport so when we returned the committee sat and agreed for the government to go in for the system,” the source said. He said apart from the monetary aspect of the contract, the Securiport gives the country the opportunity to have its first biometric system at the airport. “Before it would take our immigration months to look for information of a particular passenger but now it takes them just one day,” he said.

Data security

Also, speaking to the investigation team, an immigration insider at the airport said: “The data collected from travellers is entirely handled by the Gambia Immigration. The Securiport has nothing to do with the data – they are only there to give technical support but they have nothing to do with the data. So, nobody can collect the data without the immigration knowing it.”