Hundreds of ineligible citizens hold Diplomatic Passports

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- Reveals GTT Report  

July 20, 2018

By Ibrahim Tarawallie

A report by the Government Transition Team (GTT) set up by President Julius Maada Bio has revealed that out of 1,179 diplomatic passports issued by the previous government, hundreds of ineligible citizens were granted diplomatic passports with dozens not accounted for.

According to the report, two official directives – a 1998 Cabinet Conclusion and a 2007 declaration by former President Ernest Bai Koroma, restricted ownership of diplomatic passports to the President, Vice President, Speaker of  Parliament, Chief Justice, cabinet ministers and deputy ministers, diplomatic representatives and Members of Parliament.

However, the GTT report states that a list of diplomatic passport holders showed ‘housewives’ of senior All People’s Congress (APC) leaders, their business associates and other categories of persons holding diplomatic passports.

In December 2013, the government signed a new contract with Netpage, which purportedly represents the old British firm Thomas de la Rue, for the purchase of “passport issuing and personalization” to enable Sierra Leone to “migrate from readable passports to ePassports, as well as the design of new ePassports.”

The total contract cost amounted to £2,195,360, of which the Government paid £1,680,641 upon signing the agreement.

Thomas de la Rue, according to the report, has been under contract with the Government of Sierra Leone since February 2000 to supply machine-readable passports and their associated issuing system for Sierra Leone.

“The other substantive terms of the contract are simply bizarre.
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All funds from the sale of the passports were to be given to Jamal Shallop and Co.Netpage and the Government of Sierra Leone would earn only the Le 10,000 that citizens pay to obtain the passport application form. The company, in other words, though paid for the service, benefits up to US$100 per passport fee that citizens’ pay to actually obtain a new passport, and the government getting only about US$1.25,” says the report.

The report recommends that the issuance of diplomatic passports be urgently reviewed and that former Chief Immigration Officer, Alpha Kholifa Koroma, be investigated for his alleged complicity in the issuance of diplomatic passports to hundreds of ineligible holders.

It strongly recommends that the contract with De la Rue and its supposed service provider company Netpage, which is own by Jamal Shallop, be urgently reviewed.

The Government Transition Team was established on April 6, 2018 with Professor David Francis as head to assess the conduct of the former APC administration in running the affairs of the state for ten years, between late 2007 to March 2018.