MRP project outlives tenure for drawbacks

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 08 Aug 2017, 00:01:01 | Updated : 08 Aug 2017, 11:49:20

MRP project outlives tenure for drawbacks

Cost more than doubles for deadline failures, may stand in way of e-passport introduction
Doulot Akter Mala
Government passport authority feels it difficult to wrap up the long-drawn-out machine-readable passport (MRP) project for its insufficient delivery capacity, though the MRPs will be redundant pieces of travel document shortly.

Another scheme, in the meantime, lies in wait for introducing electronic passport or e-passport, officials said.      

The MRP project had gone through two-phase time extension and was scheduled to expire in June 2017.

In the wake of such laggard run, the Department of Immigration and Passports (DIP) recently requested the government to extend the project further by a year.

Concomitant with deadline failures the project cost also escalated in three phases to Tk 7.10 billion. An increase in the number of service centres in head offices and across the country also contributed to the cost rises.

Initial project cost was Tk 3.10 billion that rose up to Tk 4.80 billion in the second phase.

The government plans to launch next year e-passport to replace the MRP. Until then, the project is destined to be continued under a latest decision on its extension, the sources said.

The MRP project, being implemented by IRIS Corporation Bhd Malaysia, was scheduled for handover to the DIP by 2014.

Talking to the FE, DIP Director-General Masud Rezwan said the department is in a process of launching e-passport and the current project could be continued until the start of e-passport.

"We need support of the project for software and technical management of the MRP," he said.

The DIP is now preparing Development Project Proposal (DPP) for the launch of e-passport, he added.

"We held a meeting last week on e-passport at the home ministry with its secretary in the chair."

He further said the DIP is imparting training to its officials to enhance their capabilities to fit in the electronic passport regime.

"It has also manpower shortage as some 1,020 officials are working across the country out of approved posts for 1184," he added.

Each of the officials is able to provide services to maximum 40 service- seekers daily but they are serving 125 people on average, he said, referring to their constraints.

Despite all this, the DIP has brought several reforms in passport-and visa- issuance processes.

Since April last, passport-seekers of 65 foreign countries have got passport directly from the ministry of home affairs within a week, he said.

Passports are printed centrally from the department's head office at Agargaon.

"Earlier, the DIP had to send the passport via foreign ministry in a lengthy process. Expatriate Bangladeshis had to wait two-three months for a passport," he said.

The DIP floated tenders and FedEx won the bid, he said.

It has issued some 18.0 million MRPs so far through 67 passport offices across the country, he added.

The DIP under the home ministry had launched the project for issuing about 18.4 million MRPs by 2014.

Bangladesh had a compulsion to introduce MRP by April 2010 to comply with the International Civil Aviation Organisation requirements. Failure to become an ICAO member might affect Bangladeshi citizens' access to the international labour market and visas.

The government would have to spend a large sum again for issuing electronic passports after the MRPs become invalid across the globe. All developed countries in the world have already introduced electronic passports.

The e-passport may be issued for 10 years and might be a biometric passport containing detailed features of the holder.

The government will float tender and start a project to make e-passport under build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) basis.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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