Department of Passports modifies tender for e-passports after reservations from Asian biddersNew amendments to the tender have reduced requirements regarding past experience in printing passports so as to create a more level playing field.
Responding to complaints from a number of Asian bidders, the Department of Passports has amended the bid documents and relaxed the specification criteria for a biometric passport tender.
The department had called a global tender for 5 million e-passports, to be printed after the end of 2020 as per a rule set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
In a pre-bid meeting of prospective bidders last week in Kathmandu, officials had listened to queries and complaints from potential bidders, later issuing a 32-page clarification and 18-page amendment to the tender documents in order to ensure more participation in the bid process, officials at the Department of Passports said. Around 20 prospective bidders and representatives from various printing companies were present in the pre-bid meeting.
As per the amendment, any firm with the experience of printing and supplying e-passports in two countries is now eligible to participate in the bidding process. Earlier, the qualifying criterion was set for three countries.
Similarly, according to Ram Kaji Khadka, director-general of the Department of Passports, a condition permitting bids only from firms with experience in printing and supplying five million passports in the last 10 years has been significantly modified. The new condition now permits firms with experience in printing and supplying 2.5 million poly-carbonated e-passports and another 2.5 million machine-readable passports within 10 years.
In addition to these amendments, the department has also extended the deadline to submit the final bid from October 15 to October 31, according to Khadka.
The Department of Passports invited a global bid on August 27 and interested bidders have already begun submitting their bid documents. Interested companies had 45 days since the call to submit their final bid.
A number of Asian firms earlier had voiced concerns against some strict provisions in the tender call, alleging that the requirements did not favour European and American firms over Asian ones as many countries in the region are supplied with passports by European and American companies. None of the bidders from India and China was eligible to contest the bid based on the previous conditions, according to officials at the department.
However, the department has introduced a strict provision of not allowing joint ventures to contest the bid.
“We have totally prohibited a joint venture between two or more than two firms in the printing and supply of passports,” said Khadka. “That kind of diversity of liability could hamper the smooth execution of the project. Printing and distribution of passports is critical work and it should not be stopped at any cost.”
Khadka further said that any conflict of interest between the firms in the joint venture could hamper the effective distribution of passports, which are critical documents for any citizen.
“Only a single firm should compete and win the bid,” said Khadka.
The department, however, has made an allowance regarding the availability timeframe. The earlier timeframe was 99.9 percent, which meant that passport printing and distribution should be available at all times. That timeframe has been reduced to 98 percent, allowing some leeway for the firm that wins the bid when it comes to printing and distribution availability.
“The passport system should run 100 percent due to its urgency, but since some firms complained about the requirement, we’ve slightly decreased the availability of the system,” said Khadka. “We believe that a slight amendment in the availability will not make that much of a difference because we have some passports in stock.”
The printing of five million biometric passports is a lucrative deal, costing over Rs10 billion, and is likely to receive bids from over half a dozen international companies.
A total of 12 prospective international bidders have procured bid documents as of Friday. Since the last date for submission is October 31 and the bid is only open for electronic bids, the number of companies that have submitted bid documents will only be known once the bidding process is over.
As per general procurement rules, at least three firms should compete for the bid or the bid process will be cancelled and recalled after simplifying specifications. European and American firms like IDEMIA (France), Oberthur Technologies (France), Thales Group (France), Veridos (Germany), PW of Poland, Data Card (US) and Canadian Press, among others, are likely to submit bids.
“With the relaxation of the specification criteria, we are expecting more firms in the bidding process,” said Khadka.
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