MP calls for probe into e-passports, national ID contracts

04Feb 2018
The Guardian Reporter
Guardian On Sunday
MP calls for probe into e-passports, national ID contracts

AN opposition Member of Parliament has called for an investigation into contracts signed between the government and foreign companies for implementation of electronic passports (e-passports) and national identity cards projects.

Tarime lawmaker John Heche (CHADEMA).

Tarime lawmaker John Heche (CHADEMA) said in a statement yesterday that he plans to table a private member's motion in the National Assembly to demand formation of a parliamentary probe into the deals signed by government agencies.

Heche claimed that public procurement procedures were flouted in awarding the contracts.

"The government should declare if any public tender was floated for e-passports and disclose the list of bidders," he said.

"The government should also make public an addendum to the contract for supply of national IDs and explain why the unit cost of the IDs was hiked from 17,000 shillings per ID to 26,000 shillings per ID."

Heche said he has been receiving threats “against his life and his credibility” after raising concerns in Parliament earlier this week about the "inflated costs" of e-passports and national ID projects.

The National IDs project was implemented by the state-run National Identification Authority (NIDA).

The government charged the former NIDA director general, Dickson Maimu, and seven other senior officials in 2016 for abuse of position and occasioning a loss of over 1.2bn/- to the state over the national IDs project.

HID Global, a United States-based identity solutions provider, announced this week that it has been selected by the Tanzanian government as its "prime supplier for an end-to-end solution for issuing electronic passports as part of Tanzania’s transformative e-Immigration programme."

The new ePassport was unveiled by President John Magufuli on Wednesday this week, with the project costing Tanzania $57.82 million (about 130 billion shillings).

Magufuli said corrupt individuals had attempted to inflate the cost of the project to $226 million, which could have cost Tanzanian taxpayers an additional 370 billion shillings, but the government uncovered the plot and spent $57.82 million for the project.

Heche demanded to know if the $57.82 million covered just the e-passports component, or if it included other aspects of the government’s wider e-Immigration programme.

The new digital passports incorporate advanced physical and electronic security features, automated passport verification capabilities and support for international standards.

"Marked by visually stunning landmark imagery, such as Mount Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar’s House of Wonders, the new Tanzania ePassport contains a contactless chip embedded in its polycarbonate datapage, which is proven as tamper-proof," HID Global said in a statement.

"The new ePassport will increase security while, at the same time, making travel easier for the country’s citizens, such as simply scanning their passports electronically at border control stations upon entry and exit."

One of many benefits of the new e-passport solution from HID Global is that the holder can have an “emergency passport” on their smart phone, if their passport is stolen or lost in another country.

The emergency passport, verifiable electronically by the embassy, allows the traveler to obtain the necessary document to return home or request a replacement passport without the need for further online checks, filling out forms or other time-consuming tasks. The new e-passports will be sold at a cost of 150,000 shillings per passport.