Thursday, 24 September, 2020

Passport shortage looming as security printing purchase lingers on


By Purushottam P. Khatri

Kathmandu, Jan. 14: As the process of purchasing security printing press remained stuck at the parliamentarian committees, the government is set to encounter a dearth of machine readable passports (MRPs) within next six months.
After the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT) decided to purchase security printing press through government-to-government process, the Department of Passports (DoP) under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had stopped all its processes initiated to print and supply the passports from the earlier contractor Oberthur Technologies, a French digital security company.
The DoP is still issuing passports printed by the French Company, but the passports are going to finish soon. The company had printed seven million copies of passports and had given it to the Nepal government on different dates.
“If you talk about present stock of the MRPs, the existing copies of passports cannot sustain the demand for next one year,” Director General at the Department of Passports (DoP) Ramkaji Khadka told The Rising Nepal on Monday.
“Demand of the passports is likely to surge further when Japan and Malaysia will open doors for Nepali migrant workers. Once these two destinations open for foreign employment, the present stock will not be enough even for next six months,” Khadka said.
The Japanese government had already announced that it would be accepting nearly 350,000 workers from nine countries, including Nepal while Malaysia would be taking around 100,000 workers in the next five years
“As of today, we do not have not more than 630,000 passports at the department,” Khadka said.
In the normal condition, the present stock of passport could sustain for at least one year, he said. A few months ago, when the United States of America opened E-DV and made passport number compulsory while filling up the forms, the demand of passports went up dramatically than the normal demand, he said.
During E-DV time of 2019, the department issued 4,300 passports a day. At other times, the department issues 2,500 passports in average a day.
“At present, the MoCIT is given the responsibility to manage and ensure the printing of passports, he said.
“When the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology begins all the processes and undertake the responsibility, we don’t have to think any more than this, but our department has informed about the possibility of passport shortage,” said DG Khadka.
The earlier contract signed with Oberthur which had printed the passport of Nepal, will terminate only after using all the passports printed by it. The exact date of contract termination with Oberthur is not mentioned anywhere, Khadka said.
According to him, Oberthur had initially printed 4 million copies of MRPs and provided to the Nepal government as per the agreement. The department had distributed 517,000 passports last year.
Similarly, the passports, which were issued in 2010 and 2011 will also be going to expire in 2021, this will create additional burden on the department in managing their renewal and the pressure of the fresh applicants.
Among different streams of passports, the Department is going to face more pressure to meet the demand of official passports than normal and diplomatic categories passports.
The Department of Passports had to cancel the e-bidding process on November 7, 2019, after the Cabinet decision stopped them doing so while it was calling e-biding notice for the printing, supply, delivery, installation, testing, and commissioning of equipment. 

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