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Over passport price saga…

CSOs want Minister and Chief Immigration Officer sacked

June 10, 2015 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara

Six Civil Society Organizations have called on President Ernest Bai Koroma to sack Minister of Internal Affairs, Joseph Bandabla Dauda, and Chief Immigration Officer, Alpha Kholifa Koroma for what they described as an unpatriotic and fraudulent passport contract they awarded to a Lebanese man.

“We are calling on President Koroma to relieve Internal Affairs Minister and the Immigration boss for deceiving this nation and for engaging in a fraudulent passport contract. We are also calling on the anti graft body to immediately take action to investigate these unpatriotic individuals,” the release states.

At a presser hosted yesterday at the Presidential Lounge of the National Stadium, activists claimed that the contract awarded to Netpage company, owned by a naturalized Lebanese man, Jamel Shallop, was in violation of the country’s procurement laws, thus calling on the anti-graft body to investigate the bidding process.

The activists say to own a passport was a right of every citizen not just travelers, and that the astronomical increase in the fees for acquiring the new biometric passport would marginalize the less privileged who may be unable to acquire it.

Director of Sierra Leone Civil Rights Coalition, Alphonso Manley, told journalists that a statement by Internal Affairs Minister, Joseph Bandabla Dauda, comparing prices of passports in six West African countries was  ‘falsified’ and ‘bloated’ primarily to stick to ‘their’ proposed Le500,000 ($100) bid.

“We cannot afford to pay $100 for our passport, even though it is biometric. It is too exorbitant and not in the interest of the general populace. There is a fragrant violation of the procurement laws by entering into a fraudulent contract with a hand-pick Lebanese contactor,” the release adds.

Director of Anti Violence Movement, Edward Marrah, described the increment in passport fees as “criminal in the sense that it was not in the interest of the people”. He said the contract was fraudulent as it did not go through any competitive bidding process. He noted that the 400% increment was unjustifiable and refuted claims that countries in the sub-region sold their passports at $100.

 “There is a conspiracy in the award of the contract. A contract of two million Euro should have been advertised through international competitive bidding. Netpage doesn’t have an office space; the address on the contract is Country Lodge. This threatens our national security,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Internal Affairs, Joseph Bandabla Dauda, Monday (8 June) said in a press conference the passport contract was awarded to De La Rue International Limited, who identified a local Lebanese company, Netpage, as partners in the management of the contract to provide financial resources. He said apart from Liberia, Sierra Leone was the only country in the sub-region that was selling its passport at $100.

But the six CSOs denied that citizens of all of the countries named by Mr. Dauda were paying $100 for passport. They say Nigeria charges $40 for ordinary travelers and $100 for frequent travelers’ passport, containing 64 pages; while Cameroon, Guinea, Gambia, Liberia and Ghana all sell their passports below $100.

The six CSOs include Sierra Leone Civil Rights Coalition, Anti-Violence Movement, National Youth Coalition, Democracy Sierra Leone, Movement for Governance Realities and Citizens Budget Watch.

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