Whilst some people are calling for the removal from office of the Chief Immigration Officer and the Minister of Internal Affairs in respect of the current increase in the price of the country’s ePassport and the termination of the Netpage contract, they have failed to realise that terminations of contracts and sacking of officials are not done chaotically or arbitrarily.
The facts are examined before any action is taken. And according to the fact at our disposal, all parties acted within the terms of the contract.
This medium is aware as well as many Sierra Leoneans that the cost of the country’s passport was pegged at US Dollar 100 ($100). Since the signing of the said agreement by the former government, this has been going on. When President Bio took up office, the same procedure was followed. It should be noted that both Netpage and Thomas De la rue are reputable companies with international recognition.
The latter has been printing the country’s legal tender for decades without any cause for complain. The contract entered into by Netpage with the government is to pre-finance the printing of the ePassport which is done by Thomas De la rue and the price was pegged at US$100 per book. When the price of the dollar was stable the cost remained low and even when in 2018, the dollar began to rise, the passports were still sold at Le750, 000 each, now the exchange rate of the dollar has risen and the company has to break-even and not run at a loss. It therefore kept to the terms of the contract, which is US$100 per book.
In the light of the above, the Chief Immigration Officer and the Internal Affairs Minister have nothing to do but to conform to the dictates of the contract agreement signed between the company and the government and ratified by the highest decision making body in the land, the House of Parliament.
The failure of those proponents of the sacking of the CIO and the Minister and termination of the contract agreement are jumbling the facts and misleading the public. Such a contract can only be reviewed and sent to Parliament. To do otherwise is to send the wrong message to investors that our leaders do not respect contracts signed and violate the very law they profess to maintain. This will eventually drive away any serious investor from the country.
The aforementioned government officials did nothing wrong, they merely adhered to the dictates of the contract agreement signed by the government. It is not in their power to terminate any contract. They can only act when the terms of the contract are not followed, but in this case, all parties followed the very terms of the contract agreement. How can you possibly sack an official for simply following the terms of a contract to the very letter?
It could be recalled that after President Bio assumed office, the issue about the passport surfaced. It was then that various Civil Society Organisations and the media were enlightened about the terms of the said contract; that the cost of the passport was pegged to the dollar (.i.e. US$100). So if the dollar rate has appreciated, it is only plausible that the cost of the passport should also go up, except Parliament reviews the agreement and a consensus reached between the government and the suppliers. But as it stands, they have done no wrong and are well within the terms of the agreement.
Source: The Times