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As public protest proposed increment in passport price…

NETPAGE lobbies Parliament for an ‘adjustment’

October 17, 2019

By Jariatu S. Bangura

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Lawrence Anthony and Andrew Jaiah Kaikai facing the committee

Manager of NETPAGE (SL) Limited attached to the Immigration Department, Lawrence Anthony, yesterday informed Members of the Internal Affairs Committee in Parliamentary that they have requested for an adjustment in the printing cost of e-passport as they were running at loss.

In 2014, the Government of Sierra Leone signed an agreement with Thomas Delaru, through NETPAGE, for the printing of the country’s passport at $120.

But the agreement was later reviewed in August 2015, and eventually the price was dropped to $100, equivalent to Le750, 000 at that time.

Since then, the exchange rate of the USD$ as against the Leones has been plummeting, but government has insisted on the Le750, 000 on the grounds that it was the equivalent of $100 at the time the agreement was entered into.

Currently, the exchange rate of $100 is above one million Leones and such development might have prompted NETPAGE to call for an adjustment of the passport price.

Based on the rumours making the rounds that the price of e-passport would increase anytime soon, the Internal Affairs Committee summoned NETPAGE and the Chief Immigration Officer to explain to the committee as to why they were yearning to review the price.

While Anthony denied rumours hinting at a proposed increment in the price of the e-passport, he ironically stated that they wanted to adjust the cost as their company is running at a loss due to the depreciation of the Leones as against the United States Dollar.

“There has been some lapses since the rate was at Le750, 000, but we have been doing all we could to always produce the passport. There has never been a shortage in production across the country,” he said.

The manager told the committee that it was based on the current situation that they wrote a letter to the Chief Immigration Officer for an adjustment on the price of the e-passport, as the Le750, 000 is not reflecting on the current dollar rate in the country.

He emphasised that for the past one year, the company has been losing considerable amount of money, thus urging lawmakers to look into the issue.

Meanwhile, Chief Immigration Officer, Andrew Jaiah Kaikai, confirmed that Delaru and NETPAGE (SL) Limited have written a letter to them asking for an adjustment on the price of the passport, claiming that they are losing a lot due to the fluctuation of the dollar.

He said since he took over in 2018, he has never received any report from NETPAGE on the sale of passport or their daily operations.

Earlier, Chairman of the committee, Hon. Alusine Kanneh said the purpose of the meeting was to get first-hand information about the rumors making the rounds about a possible increment in price of e-passport.

“Our constituents have been asking a lot of questions about the increment and we want to know. We are curious! There has been lot of public outcry of such intention and it needs to be addressed with immediate effect. The committee wants answers that are accurate,” he said

He said before the next meeting, NETPAGE should submit a comprehensive customer report, detail sales report, and original copies of the contract, among other documents.

Other members of the committee observed that there were a number of features that were supposed to be included in the current e-passport as stated in the original contract, but were not available.

They noted that there is provision made for a review to be done and not an adjustment as stated by the NETPAGE Manager.

They advised that the technical personnel for NETPAGE be present in the next committee hearing so that the many unanswered questions would be answered.