Passport issuance resumes as govt reassures renewal of contract

People gather at Agargaon passport office in the capital yesterday as the issuing of machine-readable passport (MRP) continues. Photo: Rashed Shumon

The Malaysian company entrusted with issuing machine-readable passport (MRP) in Bangladesh got back to work yesterday, a day after pulling out of the project for the government’s failure to renew its contract.

It has agreed to issue MRPs for two more weeks on condition that the contract, which expired on March 31, will be renewed by October 31.

No passport from today

The decision came after a successful negotiation at a meeting held at the Department of Immigration and Passport yesterday morning.

Meeting sources said top officials of the MRP project assured the Malaysian firm that the contract would be renewed shortly.

“We will pull out our staff anytime if the contract is not renewed without any change in it,” said Noor A Alam Chowdhury of Dataedge Ltd, a local partner of Malaysia-based IRIS Corporation Berhard, which is issuing the MRPs under a Tk 526-crore project.

A proposal to renew the contract was prepared following a series of meetings between the officials concerned and the company representatives in the past few months.

They followed the Public Procurement Regulation (PPR) to prepare the proposal, which has recently been sent to the home ministry for approval.

Both the sides have agreed that the Malaysian firm will get revised rate of US dollar in the renewed contract. When the contract was signed in 2010, $1 was equivalent to Tk 69.15, which is now around Tk 81.

“Almost all the pieces of MRP producing equipment are imported from different countries. We are unable to import the equipment if the dollar rate is not adjusted. The reason of rate adjustment is justified,” Noon told The Daily Star.

Contacted, Director General of DIP Abdul Mabud said a decision in this regard will be taken according to the PPR, which has a provision to adjust the rate of foreign currency.

He however declined to elaborate on the matter.

Additional Project Director of the MRP project Col Md Abdullah Latif Talukder claimed the state minister for home affairs has already signed the proposal, which, he said, would be sent to the purchase committee for approval once the home minister signs it.

On the delay in renewing the contract, he said the Malaysian firm demanded 2 to 3 percent price hike of some goods, but that is not allowed in the PPR. So, the home ministry sent the proposal back several times, he added.

“We have recently convinced the firm to keep the price of those goods like before,” he told The Daily Star.

The Malaysian firm was selected in 2010 for a period of two and a half years to issue the MRP and MRV (machine-readable visa). The army was assigned to implement the project.

In the last nine months, the firm issued a number of letters to the project authorities and held meetings with them to renew its contract. Despite repeated assurances by the project officials, the renewal could not be done allegedly due to inefficiency of the project management.