Nepal Today

Friday, August 27, 2010

MRP deal finally signed

By Bhola B Rana

Kathmandu, 27 Aug.: Following direct intervention by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal (UML), the foreign ministry signed a deal Friday with Oberthru Technologies of France of print machine readable passports (MRPs) in an international effort to fight international terrorism.
The MRPs will replace traditional hand-written passports.
PM Nepal intervened and gave the go-ahead for signing the deal despite objection and public rebuke of foreign ministry officials by Deputy Prime Ministry and Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala who leads the NC team in government.
Koirala charged she wasn’t given details of the tender awarded to the French company in an international tender bid approved by a team of ministry officials.
Sujata wasn’t present at the signing ceremony Friday.
The finalization of the delayed deal comes as a serious embarrassment for Koirala who doesn’t have her father, Girija, to back her.
Sujata publicly rebuked her ministry officials for lack of transparency and said as the ministry head she was entitled to contract details as demanded; the request wasn’t granted.
Prime ministerial intervention of a ministry headed by a minister from another party is rare while running government at a critical juncture.
She together with the cabinet first awarded the contract to an Indian government security printing press without tender.
The decision was retracted after pressure in parliament and other sectors.
ICAO directed Nepal and other countries to issue MRPs and extended the deadline for Nepal and several other countries that didn’t meet the target date.
The MRP saga reflects the amateurish functioning of ministers and and the government while handling serious national issues.
Koirala even called for an evaluation of security faults and evaluation by experts when she and the cabinet first awarded the contract to India without consulting experts.
Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood, through a secret letter to the foreign ministry, lobbied for the deal.
The letter was leaked to the press to the embarrassment and protest of the Indian embassy.
The MRP saga is, hopefully, over.


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