Global tender call for e-passport from next yearThe Department of Passport (DoP), under the aegis of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is likely to call early next year a global tender to print e-passports Eligible entities would qualify to bid for the global tender, a senior official of the passport office said.
The Department of Passport (DoP), under the aegis of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is likely to call early next year a global tender to print e-passports Eligible entities would qualify to bid for the global tender, a senior official of the passport office said.
The department has done the initial work for e-passports that would replace the current Machine Readable Passports (MRP).
The government has given go-ahead to the department and the Ministry of Finance would do the budgetary allocation for e-passport.
DoP Director General of Ram Kaji Khadka said, “We will call for global tender bids from eligible firms to print the e-passport by May 2019. If everything goes as per plan, we could introduce e-passport in 18 months.”
The department has dispatched a proposal seeking principal approval and budget to the Ministry of Finance, he said.
The DoP proposal forwarded to the ministry states it requires Rs 8 billion ($69 million approx) to print the next generation passport for five years.
The e-passport will cost more than current MRPs, said the official. Currently, after tax, enrolment centres and equipment, each copy of MRP costs $4.8 (Rs 557 approx), but the price of each e-passport will cost at least $15 (Rs 1,739 approx). The government pays around Rs 500 for each MRP, but charges the clientsRs 5,000, 10,000, 12,000 and 15,000 to obtain the passport provided on fast and late delivery system.
The e-passport will be polycarbonate with laser engraving. The cost will further increase if more security features are added to e-passport, the official said
Nepal’s current passport ranks low globally due to various reasons. If we provide good quality passport, our ranking would improve, the official said.
The government had introduced MRPs at the end of 2010 as per the ICAO’s guideline and distributed over 5.5 million passports since then.
A team formed to prepare the tender for e-passport will be led by Khadka. Team members comprise Directors at DoP Tirtha Aryal and Rajendra Pandey, Finance Officer Anu Khanal, Under Secretary at MoFA (legal section) Kiran Gurung along with Ramesh Pokhrel of GIDC, Sita Niraula of Prime Minister Office, Mukesh Nirula of Ministry of Home Affairs, Tej Bahadur Chhetri and Gyatri Khanal of the Foreign Ministry.
We will form two sub-committees to prepare financial and technical proposals to call for the global tender bid, Khadka said.
After two separate teams submit their respective proposals to the main committee led by Khadka, a tender document will be prepared before issuing the global tender.
Another oversight mechanism will be formed at highest level to monitor the development on tendering process, pre-bid meeting, concern from bidders and addressing them until first copy of the e-passport get printed.
At present, 1.3 million MRPs are in stock that can be used for the next one and a half year, if current daily applications do not surge.
At present, the DoP distributes around 1,500 passports. “Though it is not mandatory, more than 114 countries have already issued e-passport. So sooner or later, we have to introduce the e-passport,” said Khadka.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has not set a last date for all countries to switch to e-passport from MRPs.
What is an e-passport?
An e-passport is also known as digital or biometric passport. Due to security concerns, migration to e-passport from Machine Readable Passport started in 2005. As of mid 2018, more than 150 countries have issued e-passports.
An e-passport has an embedded electronic microprocessor chip. It contains biometric information of person that authenticates the identity of the passport holder.
It uses contactless smart card technology, including a microprocessor chip and antenna to power the chip as well as communication.
It is embedded either the front or back cover or the centre page of the passport. The passport holder’s information is printed on the data page of the passport and the chip too stores it.
Public key infrastructure (PKI) authenticates the data stored electronically in the passport chip making it expensive and difficult to forge when all security features are implemented correctly.
Many countries are moving towards the issue of biometric passports.