This is despite the State Printing Department’s having submitted a feasibility study demonstrating its ability to design a low-cost, high quality and safe new e-passport. The study says the e-passport with an electronic chip containing the holder’s details, can be given at Rs. 350. A sum of Rs.700 million is needed to fulfill the related technical requirements, and the state will be able retain the spending that will otherwise be channeled to the private sector, says the Department documents sent to the Home Affairs, Wayamba Development Cultural Affairs Ministry secretary. However, there has been no response so far to that notification.
It is in this scenario that the cabinet approved a joint paper on August 01 by the Home Affairs, Wayamba Development Cultural Affairs Minister S.B. Nawinna and Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando which says the introduction of the e-passport should be carried out as a state-private partnership under the national digitalization programme.
According to information available to us, the first study in this regard started in 2015. The Moratuwa University was handed over the task of designing a technical framework for an international standard e-passport. Later, with its recommendations, the Immigration and Emigration Department was going to introduce a new e-passport when that was suspended and a proposal made to bring that under the ICTA and the Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Ministry.
In March 2017, a cabinet paper based on ICTA proposals was submitted with approval by the economic affairs subcommittee. It says a partnership with Di La Ru, which prints currency notes, be made and a special printing machine installed at a cost of Rs. 1.2 billion. However, that was rejected by the cabinet because it did not follow a clear tender procedure in accordance with presidential recommendations, the Immigration and Emigration Department was not involved, a high was bid placed by Di La Ru and a clear loss would occur to the state and other reasons .
The president recommended that a committee involving the Immigration and Emigration, State Printing Departments and Home Affairs Ministry be set up and based on its recommendations the Swiss Challenge method be undertaken. Accordingly, the State Printing Department submitted its recommendations. ICTA and other responsible authorities are trying, without consulting the Finance Ministry, to launch the project through Di La Ru.
Previously, the tender for the printing of passports was given to Indonesia’s state press, which charged a very high fee of five dollars per passport, the sources note. The e-passport will cost more than that. The attempt will result in citizens’ information going to the hands of a private company, risk of fake passports, weakening of powers of the Immigration and Emigration Department, state’s having to bear an unnecessary expenditure and loss, and the ministries involved getting accused of corruption. This will all lead to the government suffering a huge disgrace, the sources say, stressing that the top government figures should pay careful attention to this matter.