Government mulls extending passport procurement dealWith stock depleting, France’s IDEMIA may be asked to supply more copies as fresh tender would need time and new set-up.
In order to address a looming shortage of passport copies, the government is in the final stage of procuring the books from the current supplier, the IDEMIA. The France-based security company has been delivering e-passports to Nepal since November 2021.
It had won the bid to print, supply and install the required technology including the personalisation centre in November 2021. With the distribution of the previous stock of two million passports nearly complete, the government is now procuring additional copies to meet the growing demand for the travel document through fresh negotiation.
Though the government had options to call for a fresh bid for passport printing and supply before reaching a new deal, given the fast depletion of stock, it has decided to give continuity to the old procurement deal through negotiation, said officials.
Minister for Foreign Affairs NP Saud told the Post that a proposal has been tabled in the Cabinet with the government ready to procure passports through negotiation with the IDEMIA. But the minister did not reveal the number of the passports to be procured from the IDEMIA or the price. The company had in 2021 won the bid to provide two million passports at the cost of $21.1 million ($10.46 for each copy) including technical support.
“The IDEMIA has given us three proposals, plus various time frames and pricing,” a senior foreign ministry official said, adding that the price would depend on the volume of procurement.
Damaru Ballav Poudel, director at the Department of Passports, told the Post that the office has only around 430,000 passports remaining. After the 34-page passports went out of stock, the department started distributing 66-page passports from June 18 following a Cabinet decision to meet the immediate requirement. Last month 146,800 passports were issued, said Poudel. At this pace, the stock will last for only three months.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while forwarding the proposal to the Cabinet, stated that besides procuring additional passports, a new bidding process will also be initiated. There are also ongoing talks to procure passports under a government-to-government deal and some foreign security printing companies are interested in supplying passports under such a deal.
“If we get an affordable rate, value added service and a reliable supply, the procurement of the passports can be done under a government-to-government deal,” said minister Saud.
The IDEMIA has proposed the options of supplying 1.5 million, 1.8 million or 2.8 million passports. The 1.5 million passports can meet the requirement of six months, the 1.8 million will cater to the demand for eight months and 2.8 million will be enough for 15 months, considering the daily volume of passport distribution at present.
Sources said that as the government will most likely procure 2.8 million passports, they will be enough for another one-and-a-half years. After that period, fresh procurement will be made by a new tendering process. A new company could be contracted to supply passports following a fresh bidding process or the government could even reach a G2G deal, they suggest.
As it would take at least two years for a new company to print and supply passports, procuring 2.8 million copies would be the best option, officials privy to the developments said. “Once the Cabinet takes a formal decision, we will negotiate with the IDEMIA and sign a new contract,” said Poudel, the department director. “Simultaneously, we will work on the global bidding process for the printing and supply of passports.”
Under the fresh tender process, besides time taken (ranging from 18 to 24 months), it will be necessary to install the technology and set up personalisation centres in all 77 districts as well as in the Nepali missions abroad, another official at the foreign ministry said. “It’d be wise to procure the 2.8 million copies but the decision is a prerogative of the Cabinet”.
The ministry had formed two committees, one for negotiations with the IDEMIA and the other for preparing a fresh tender process. Former foreign minister Bimala Rai Paudyal had also proposed procuring 2.8 million passports through negotiations but it did not materialise as her tenure ended abruptly. A technical team had also suggested procuring 2.8 million passports back in February.
Last time, the process to introduce e-passports took three years, said Poudel. “Now we hope negotiations will conclude within two years before bids are awarded in a global tender process.”
The previous KP Sharma Oli government had in 2019 called for bids to supply five million e-passports to Nepal. After the cancellation of the initial tender process, the Oli government reduced the number to two million while inviting fresh proposals.