Govt initiates process to address passport shortage problem
By Chadani Hamal,Kathmandu, June 23: The government has initiated measures to facilitate the procurement of the passport books in response to their surging demands.
The Office of the Prime Minister, along with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has commenced consultations and preparations for the procurement of the passports.
During a discussion the other day, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ directed the concerned ministries and the Department of Passport to expedite the required process to purchase the passport books.
In accordance with the Prime Minister’s instructions, Finance Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat, Foreign Secretary Bharatraj Poudyal, Finance Secretary, and Director General of the Passport Department, Surendra Kumar Yadav, have been tasked with finalising the necessary procedures and preparing a proposal.
The Ministry of Finance has already initiated budget management process while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has started procedural preparations to address the passport shortage.
Sewa Lamsal, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, “There are certain procedures that need to be followed concerning passports, and we will ensure that the procedures are carried out accordingly.”
To temporarily manage the passport shortage, the Department of Passport is exploring options for their interim supply.
Discussions have been initiated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address this issue, said Durpada Sapkota, spokesperson for the Department of Passport.
Sapkota confirmed that preparations are underway to purchase new passports immediately.
At present, electronic passports are being distributed in two variations– a 34-page passport and a 66-page passport. However, the current stock of these two types of passports can meet the demand for approximately five months. To address this issue, the department has initiated the process of purchasing additional passports with the previously contracted company.
According to the department officials, only around 500,000 passports are currently available. As printing and procurement through international tenders can be time-consuming, the department is pursuing expedited procedures to meet the immediate demand.
The tender process will commence after the decision of the Council of Ministers. However, even after the cabinet’s decision, challenges may arise due to the lengthy competitive procedures. Short-term agreements also require the approval from the Council of Ministers.
Sapkota said, “Although both processes have been initiated simultaneously, we are awaiting further instructions from the government.”
In order to meet the temporary demand, the government must decide, after consultation, on matters such as the procurement process and the price of passports from the same company. Purchasing passports through competition offers the possibility of lower prices, whereas immediate contracts may result in slightly higher costs.
Delay in making a prompt decision could potentially disrupt passport distribution services, the officials said.
A significant surge has been experienced in demand for passports in recent months, surpassing 100,000 units per month.
In the month of Baisakh (April 14 to May14) the department issued 115,000 passports, which escalated to 147,000 passports in the following month of Jestha (May 15 to June 15).
Three years ago, the government signed an agreement with a French company to print two million passports. However, the initial proposal of printing 5 million copies was subsequently reduced to 2 million copies in the final contract.The Rising Nepal