Cabinet approval is said to have been granted to handover the tender to supply new e-passports sans following the normal tender process. According to sources, this tender has now been given to M/S De La Rue Lanka Currency and Security Print Ltd as proposed by Minister of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure, Harin Fernando.
Tender Valued at Rs. 1.2 Billion
While the value of the tender is said to be Rs. 1.2 Billion government insiders have cast doubt regarding the proposal to handover the tender without following the process. According to insider government sources, there are now concerns if any serious financial irregularities are behind this deal.
De La Rue did not bid for tender
These sources while pointing out that M/S De La Rue Lanka Currency and Security Print Ltd. had not even submitted a bid for the tender when it was first called to print the newly proposed e-passports. They further explained that the Government Printers are able to provide these required passports at only an expenditure of Rs. 600 Million. However, according to them, it is questionable as to why this possibility was ignored and cabinet approval was granted to handover the tender to M/S De La Rue Lanka Currency and Security Print Ltd instead.
Presidential observations shown the door
While a similar proposal to hand over the tender to the same company was submitted at a previous occasion, presenting his observations on the project President Maithripala Sirisena had suggested that it is better to grant the tender after a competitive bidding process than grant it to a single supplier.
However, it appears that several parties in the government have continuously pushed to grant this project to the said company and as a result, a MoU was signed by the ICTA and M/S De La Rue Lanka Currency and Security Print Ltd on June 13, 2017, to provide the related technical requirement analysis.
According to the MoU signed disregarding the previous cabinet proposal and the Presidents observations on August 9, 2016, Minister Harin Fernando had presented cabinet paper CP/17/1576/722/017 jointly with the Minister of Immigration and Emigration S.B Nawinna. However, the recommendation of the cabinet at the time was to launch the e-passport project according to the ‘Swiss Challenge’ procedure instead.
De La Rue not up for a ‘Swiss Challenge’
However, according to reports M/S De La Rue Lanka Currency and Security Print Ltd had expressed their displeasure at this recommendation of the cabinet while the British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka is also said to have lobbied for the company requesting several government officials to grant the project to De La Rue.
Insider sources of the government also claim that Minister Fernando had on November 20 presented cabinet paper No. 17/2522/749/022 accordingly requesting the project be granted without calling for tenders as proposed by the cabinet paper presented on August 9, 2017, in this regard.
Immigration and Emigration Department to go out of business
Meanwhile, insider sources of the Department of Immigration and Emigration say the process of issuing passports will be fully privatised by granting the project to M/S De La Rue Lanka Currency and Security Print Ltd.
According to the department trade unions, fears are also rife that the 400 strong staff at the ‘New Passport Office’ newly established at a cost of Rs. one billion recently will be laid off as a result.
Strike action imminent
As a result, all trade unions are expected to voice their dissent against the decision to grant the project to De La Rue. However according to the unions if it the tender is granted nevertheless the union and staff are prepared now to launch a serious trade union action soon.