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Report terms passport backlog deliberate

April 04, 2013

Passport seekers at the Garden Town office. — Photo by Dawn

ISLAMABAD: An investigation by senior officials of the interior ministry and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) held the senior hierarchy in the ministry and the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports (DGIP) responsible for passport backlog that has affected hundreds of thousands of people.

The investigation report revealed that officials had deliberately kept pending the bidding process to create an “extreme urgency” because they wanted to give the contract for procuring laminate patches for the passports to a company after relaxing the procurement rules.

Because of non-availability of the laminates, printing of a huge number of passports has been delayed for the past few months.

According to an estimate, about 700,000 applications for passports are pending in DGIP’s offices across the country.

Former interior minister Rehman Malik had constituted a committee, headed by the ministry’s additional secretary, in December to investigate the matter. The committee completed its inquiry on March 14 after interviewing several officials.

“There has been a considerable delay in the procurement process for lamination patches for the passports. Prima facie, the delay is attributable to both the DGIP and the ministry of interior,” it said.

According to the report, the DGIP signed in August 2009 a contract for the supply of laminates with OpSec, a company based in New York.

The company was asked to provide laminates for passports for five years or 10 million patches (whichever came earlier), after completing the formalities.

In July last year, the firm completed the supply of 10m laminates to the DGIP and upon the expiry of contract, the department concerned of the interior ministry approved purchase of 1.5m more laminates from the same company and also floated a tender in August for more purchases.

Despite a backlog of over 300,000 passports in August, the committee found no progress in the matter until the requests for prequalification for bids were opened on Dec 11 and four bidders were qualified by the purchase committee on Dec 26.

The committee floated a tender notice for technical and financial bids on Feb 19 and the bidders were required to submit their bids within 15 days, whereas the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules set at least 30 days response time for international bidding.

In reply to a request by the committee, the PPRA’s managing director informed it: “The PPRA Ordinance, 2002, does not provide any powers to the federal government to grant such a relaxation.”

He, however, suggested that the DGIP might engage in negotiated tendering with one or more suppliers or contractors, with or without prior publication of a procurement notification, but for this it had to justify the ‘extreme urgency’ brought about by unforeseeable events.The committee did not recommend the relaxation of rules, observing that “it will not help in the situation as the supplies will take four to five weeks to reach Pakistan”.

During checking at the DGIP, the committee found 210,000 laminates available with the directorate which were sufficient for production of passports for at least one month.

It suggested that these laminates should be used with great caution and in cases of emergency only.

According to its proposed preferences, the students, expatriate Pakistanis, those wanting to go abroad for medical treatment and pilgrims should be given preference.