Nepal to buy 2.8 million passports from IDEMIA through negotiationsThe new supply will be enough to meet the demand for 18 months, says NP Saud, the foreign minister.
In order to ease passport woes, the government has decided to procure 2.8 million biometric passports from the ‘IDEMIA Identity and Security SAS France’ as the current stock is set to be exhausted soon.
A Cabinet meeting has taken a decision to procure the passports through direct negotiations and entrusted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to initiate talks with IDEMIA, the France-based company, to ensure the supply of passport books at a time the number of passport books with the government is about to run out.
Foreign Minister NP Saud told the Post that the “Cabinet has decided to procure 2.8 million passports from the current supplier and simultaneously, new international bids will be called soon for the supply of passport books and the installation of a system that supports it for another six million passports.” The supply of 2.8 million passports will meet the passport demand for 18 months.
The Department of Passports has a stock of around 370,000 books, which will sustain the demand for only three months. The country will run out of passports after that if the procurement process isn’t started immediately, said officials at the department.
As it takes 18 to 24 months to ensure passport procurement through a global competitive bidding process or to buy directly through a government-to-government deal with a country that has a qualified and reliable security press, the government has decided to procure them through negotiations, so that the country will not face a passport shortage.
“We have already initiated a new procurement process for the continuation of passport delivery,” said Saud.
He added that a new global tender would soon be called for the procurement of an additional six million passports for the next five years, which in turn will come handy after the new supply of 2.8 million passports is exhausted.”
According to a senior official at the Department of Passports, they will hire an international consultant to prepare the tender document for international bidding. Once the private consultant prepares the document, a new international bid will be called after a review, a foreign ministry official said. “Or we could also opt for a government-to-government deal, if we get a proposal from a credible and reliable country.”
The official added: “We will have enough time to decide once we sign the deal for procuring 2.8 million passports. The Department of Passports has already written to IDEMIA, inquiring when it can supply the new batch of passports as the government has already entrusted the department to sign a new agreement with the company.”
He also said preparing the bid document for an international tender and negotiating a government-to-government deal for providing high-quality passports and competitive pricing will go hand in hand.
As per the proposal of the foreign ministry, the Cabinet had decided to procure 2.8 million copies of 34-page passport books from IDEMIA.
The proposal included setting up a passport enrollment centre in the Nepali consulate in China’s Chengdu and 26 additional enrollment centres in Nepal as well as an automated biometric identification system (ABIS) with the capacity to hold the data of three million people, as per the proposal seen by the Post.
In order to ensure smooth supply and the system’s efficiency, as per article 54 (1) (E) of the Public Procurement Act, the government has decided to procure the 2.8 million books through negotiations, as per the government’s decision. The government will have to pay IDEMIA US$10.13 for each passport book.
On December 21, 2020, IDEMIA reached an agreement with the government of Nepal to supply and deliver the required number of passport books through a competitive bidding process. The French company started supplying Nepal’s first-ever biometric passports on November 17, 2021. This represented Nepal’s graduation from machine-readable passports to biometric passports or e-passports as per its obligation to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
According to the foreign ministry’s proposal tabled in the Cabinet, the Department of Passports had purchased passport books by paying US$10.45 after tax for each 34-page passport book and US$10.95 after tax for 64-page ones. The agreement would be valid up to December 2023, or until the passport stocks run out.
“As the demand for the 34-page passport is high, we have run out of our stock of 1.575 million passports. An additional 300,000 passports were procured through negotiations at the same price. Now, the department has a stock of 370,000 passports, which is enough only for the next three months,” the foreign ministry said in its proposal while laying out a reason why it needed to procure an additional 2.8 million passports through negotiations with the French company.
The assumption is that the country will soon have a dedicated printing press, the foreign ministry stated, which is why the government had decided to call international tender for the supply of only two million passports.
“There is uncertainty of setting up a security printing press even as the number of service seekers is increasing. Passport distribution cannot be halted even for a day as it falls under emergency services. On the one hand, not enough passports were being procured from IDEMIA and on the other hand, there were frequent technical glitches. So, due to a lack of clarity on using the current system, lack of time to call a global tender and a high demand for passports, the ministry has recommended procuring 2.8 million passports, which is expected to be sufficient for another 2.8 months,” said the proposal forwarded by the ministry, which was later authenticated by the Cabinet.
Before deciding to procure 2.8 million passports through direct purchase, the ministry had formed a team of experts to suggest a way out. The team had suggested procuring 1.5 million or 1.8 million passports through negotiations with IDEMIA and simultaneously preparing for the bidding process.