tl;dr There is only one AFIS laboratory in the tender documentation.
„The journalist has an obligation to educate himself in public.“ —says Joseph Campbell in the series of interviews "The Power of Myth". I did the same today when I decided to find out something more about our passport affair.
First of all, the affair of the missing equipment or an equipment which is controversial is not new. This equipment was the subject of an article published by Nova TV in August 2013. Still, it is very indicative that this "criminal equipment" (NovaTV) from 2013 became an equipment for which "it is known that it could have been used in the making of biometric documents-passports and ID cards" (Fokus No. 994) in 2014.
In fact, this is the unknown. If the equipment as Fokus claims is AFIS, the same as the one used by the American FBI, that had been provided by the daughter of Safran — Morpho, then this equipment can not be used for the making of biometric documents due to the fact that it is only a forensic equipment.
The procurement of this equipment is indisputable even with regards to the information published by Fokus (No. 994, page 13) where the document for handover between Safran and the Ministry for education and science is shown. That equipment is MetaMorpho.
French Safran sells equipment for the making of passports and ID cards, but there has never been information from anyone that this equipment was purchased in Macedonia, nor that Macedonia is on the list of clients for biometric documents of this company. As a reminder, Macedonia purchased passport equipment in 2003. That equipment according to information from the past costs 23 million EUR.
I think that this dismisses the claims of a possible connection between the tenders of the Ministry of education and science and the the passport making equipment.
Still, we can do research of whether there was a purchase of 3 AFIS devices in Macedonia, because even a fingerprint verification equipment and the maintenance of the forensic databases should not be in any other property other than in the property of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (the alleged hand-overs of equipement among the Ministry of Education and Science, the University Saint Kliment Ohridski in Bitola and the Ministry of Internal Affairs aside).
For that purpose we can go back to the acceptance certificate (Fokus No. 994, page 13). If Safran really brought and mounted three sets of the equipment than this equipment should have three acceptance certificates-each for the three locations it was mounted on. Further on, Agreement no. EP 18–60/22 dated 26.09.2011 should be checked (it was made between the Ministry of Education and Science and Safran) and to look for information about the quantity and the type of equipment that was shipped. It would be logical to expect that Safran would ask for these documents to be accurate and authentic prior to signing them because if the acceptance certificate proves one thing and the Agreement another, then the Ministry of Education and Science could ask at some point that this Agreement is fully realized. Safran would not allow that for sure.
But, if all this seems complicated, it is enough to see tender documentation no. 43/2010 that is available on the web site of the Public Procurement Office (no permalink could be found, but you can check it at https://e-nabavki.gov.mk/).
The purchased laboratories are 1 AFIS and 2 sets of studio equipment for the Macedonian Radio Television.
If I start plotting theories of conspiracy then I would say that maybe all of the equipment could be used to make fake passports. However it should be checked if the Macedonian Radio Television has a new studio and audio-visual equipment and whether this equipment was also bought by Safran. But, tender 43/2010 is divisible and according to the documentation only one part of it was purchased-AFIS:
Updated December 4th 2014: According to the information provided for in the public procurement documents of 2007 in the state of West Virginia the procurement costs of the basic AFIS system of the same manufacture are 2.950.000 USD.
The procurement costs in Macedonia according to all sources are 152 million MKD or round 2.5 million EUR.
Previously on the topic: The metadata in the photos of the passports
Next on the topic: Following the traces of the journalistic research #2
Published in Okno on December 5th 2014: http://okno.mk/node/42836