FT Online

Published:
2019-11-05 11:07:34 BdST

ePassport project falters after missing deadlines twice


The issuance of ePassport faces further uncertainty as the authorities concerned could not yet fix any fresh date for its launching although they have missed two deadlines earlier.

ePassport was scheduled to be issued in June this year under a project titled “Introduction of ePassport and Automated Border Control Management in Bangladesh”. Later, it was deferred to July but now it is uncertain when ePassport will be rolled out.

An official at the Ministry of Home Affairs told UNB that though the Department of Immigration & Passports (DIP) is almost ready to issue ePassport, the department, especially the Project Director (PD), is yet to inform the ministry about the completion of their preparations.

“As soon as they’ll inform us that they’re ready for the distribution of ePassport, we’ll finalise the date to go for it,” the official said wishing to remain anonymous.

On August 1, he said, the Home Ministry issued a notification about fees, duration and types of delivery of ePassports from both home and abroad.

He said they have to issue notification again cancelling the previous one as they have to change the application form. “But the fees, duration and delivery types will remain the same.”

Contacted, Project Director Brig Gen Saidur Rahman Khan told UNB that the date for launching ePassport is yet to be finalised as it is the Home Ministry that will do it.

 

When asked that the department is yet to inform the Home Ministry that it is ready for the distribution of ePassport, Brig Gen Saidur said the ministry is aware of everything. “Please give us time, we’ll let you know about the launching date,” he added.

While talking to reporters at the Bangladesh Secretariat on November 3, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said, “ePassport is expected to be rolled out at the end of the year, but no date has been fixed yet.”

Replying to Foreign Minister’s announcement that ePassport would be launched on November 28, he said,” We’re working on it…we can say better about it. But no date has been fixed yet.”

Sources at the DIP said the distribution of ePassport was scheduled to start in December last year but it was pushed back to June this year. Yet, the authorities concerned failed to begin the work in the stipulated time.

Meanwhile, the government has moved again to procure 2 million more machine readable passports (MRPs) on an emergency basis directly from the existing supplier through the direct procurement method (DPM).

Officials at the Security Services Division (SSD) of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which initiated the move, said the failure to introduce e-Passports has prompted them to go for such a costly procurement of MRPs without tender.

Arranging fund for the project delayed the work as it was approved by Ecnec on June 21 last year and the national budget for 2018-19 was also proposed on the same month. So, it took time to arrange the fund for the project. Besides, various complications also arose during the work, said an official at the DIP headquarters.

According to a Home Ministry circular, there will be two categories of ePassport—one containing 48 pages and another type 64 pages, and the duration will be of 5 and ten years. The delivery duration will be of three types — general, express and super express.

The ePassport has an embedded electronic microprocessor chip which contains biometric information used to authenticate the identity of the bearer.

Bangladesh and Germany signed an agreement on July 19 last year following Dhaka’s decision to issue electronic passports alongside the machine readable ones.

The DIP sources said the issuance of ePassports will start from Dhaka initially. The distribution of MRP will continue from other regional offices until they start issuing ePassports. The existing MRPs will be accepted during their valid period.

The installation of e-gates is going on at every airport and land port across the country to facilitate the use of ePassports.

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