Security printing in limbo after ID cards, passports and notes put up for global tenderA senior Nepal Rastra Bank official says they are in the final stages of calling for global bids to print and supply banknotes for the next three years.
Nepal government’s plan to install a security printing press to print passports, national identity cards and banknotes inside the country has hit a roadblock, after three state agencies awarded contracts and invited global tenders for the printing of the same security documents.
The Home Ministry had awarded the contract for the National Identity Management Information System to Groupe Imprimerie Nationale (IDEMIA), a French company, without calling for competitive bids, contravening existing public procurement laws on July 11.
The Department of Passports has called for a global tender for the printing and supply of five million passports for another five years while the Nepal Rastra Bank is in the process of inviting global bids to print various denominations of currency for another three years.
With most lucrative printing contracts about to be given out to other companies, some officials say the French and the German firms that had vied to build the security printing press in Nepal are unlikely to follow through.
No one comes to Nepal and invests millions of dollars to print postage stamps, stickers and exam question papers, at least two government officials who are in close communication with the two international firms told the Post. Printing passports, national identity cards and banknotes is a profitable business, and among the primary reasons why the two firms, one German and one French, had applied to build the facility, which will cost over Rs32 billion, in Nepal.
“If the government gives an assurance to the interested firms that the printing of passports, national identity cards and banknotes will start immediately after installation of the security printing press then things could look up,” said one of the officials. “Otherwise, there will be difficulties in moving ahead.”
The French and German firms have already submitted their proposals to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to install a security printing press inside the IT Park in Banepa, offering a soft loan to the government.
It has been six months since the government signed a memorandum of understanding with the French government’s undertaking Groupe Imprimerie Nationale to set up a state-of-the-art security printing facility, but no official decision had been taken. A month later, a German government firm had offered a competing proposal.
The French company has offered a soft loan of 190 million euros at two percent annual interest. But the Finance Ministry has said that the interest rate is too high and has not taken a final call. The Nepal-based Advantage Group, which is considered to have close relations with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, recently visited France and signed on as a local partner of Groupe Imprimerie Nationale.
Mahendra Man Gurung, secretary at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, told the Post that no progress had been made yet and that they were still in talks.
However, senior officials at the Department of Passports and Nepal Rastra Bank told the Post that it was necessary for them to ask for a global tender since the government could not offer an exact timeline on when the security printing press would come online.
“Since there is a delay in the installation of the security printing press, we called for a global tender for five million biometric passports to replace the current machine readable passports,” said Ramkaji Khadka, director-general of the Department of Passports.
Groupe Imprimerie Nationale had even proposed a rate for each biometric passport to be printed to the Department of Passport.
“But their bid for per unit passport was too high so we decided to go for global tenders,” said Khadka. “We cannot offer to stop distribution of passport even for a day.”
A senior Nepal Rastra Bank official also told the Post that they are in the final stages of calling for a global tender to print and supply banknotes for the next three years. The bank’s rationale was the same as that of the Department of Passports.
“Printing notes is not like printing papers,” the official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the press. “The building should be bulletproof and the quality of notes should meet standards so there can be no compromise.”
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