KATHMANDU, Nov 9: After extending the deadline for a week amid complaints from prospective bidders to change the required specifications, the government on Friday cancelled the e-passport tender process worth around Rs 4 billion.
Director-General of the Department of Passports, Ram Kaji Khadka, confirmed that the tender process was scrapped, although he did not divulge the details about the reasons behind the cancellation. The move to cancel the fresh bidding process could delay the prospect of introducing the e-passport any time soon in the country.
Highly-placed government sources said the e-passport tender process was cancelled due to the clash of interest of the DoP with the proposed Security Printing Center under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
A dispute had surfaced between the two government bodies after the Department of Passports (DoP) invited tender bids for e-passport, a job which the Security Printing Center (SPC) is planning to undertake itself.
Executive Director of the SPC Bikal Paudel had lobbied to foil the DoP's tender process, sources said.
The DoP earlier had invited representatives of the SPC when it was in the process of finalizing technical specifications, estimated cost and other related components of the tender process.
Sources claimed that SPC Director Sunil Paudel had exerted pressure to change specifications of the e-passports at the behest of SPC executive director. The DoP had invited tender bids for e-passport amid concerns from various quarters that the government was going ahead with 'unnecessary' automated biometric ID costing Rs 1 billion as the SPC would be procuring the same biometric ID facilities when it gets full shape.
The DoP had invited tender for printing 4 million copies of passport booklets carrying 32 pages and 1 million passport booklets with 64 pages. The SPC had been exerting pressure on the DoP to invite tender for only 3 million passports, arguing that SPC's own printing facility to print passport booklets would be ready by the time the 3 million passports are issued.
The SPC is being set up in Nepal with an estimated cost of over Rs 32 billion. But as the e-passports are printed by foreign company, there are concerns within the country about the relevance of such a printing facility.
Sources said preparations are now being made for government to government agreement with either France or Germany for the printing of limited number of e-passports after the cancellation of the fresh tender process.