Covert moves are still on to mislead the president and the cabinet and handover a contract to print the e-passport to De La Rue Lanka Currency and Security Print, a company with a majority British ownership, reports say.
The state will incur a loss of Rs. two billion if that succeeds. De La Rue has estimated the printing cost at Rs. three billion, although State Printing Corporation sources say only between Rs. 700 million and Rs. 800 million will be needed for a best quality print. Local company Epic Lanka, which previously printed passports, agrees.
However, attempts are underway to auction the contract under the Swiss Challenge method and hand it over to the British company. Powerful government figures are trying to show this as a local company, although the treasury owns 40 per cent preference shares of this company.
This company has been given the job without following tender procedures, to print currency notes too. For the past five years, it has paid less than one per cent of the contract value. If the tender procedure is followed, the treasury could save between 20 and 30 per cent of that expense too.
In 2015, the Moratuwa University presented a technical framework for the e-passport. As the Immigration and Emigration Department was making arrangements for it, the ICTA and the Telecommunications Ministry intervened and took over the project.
A cabinet paper was submitted in March 2017 for the e-passport, based on an ICTA proposal that De La Rue should be given the printing contact. However, cabinet approval was not given due to various shortcomings, including the non-inclusion of the Immigration and Emigration Department, high price, clear loss to the state etc.
The president included his own recommendations including a committee comprising the Immigration and Emigration Department, Home Affairs Ministry and the State Printing Department. However, without even consulting the Finance Ministry, ICTA and other parties are trying to get the tender awarded to the British company.