Since the review of the Sierra Leone passport contract in Parliament, citizens can now breathe a sigh of relief as the Contractor, De La Rue represented by their local content agent, Netpage (SL) Limited, has made a remarkable effort to make travelers and holders of ordinary passport proud. It could be recalled that the Government of Sierra Leone through the Immigration Department alongside the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Thomas De La Rue and NETPAGE signed an agreement for the production and printing of ePassport for Sierra Leone.
Since the agreement was signed and ratified by Parliament, NETPAGE and Thomas De La Rue have been doing their best to ensure passports are always available to service the entire nation. Going through the contract agreement clearly tells that NETPAGE is only a third party in the tripartite ePassport contract agreement between the government of Sierra Leone and Thomas De La Rue by financing the contract while Thomas De La Rue handles the printing of the Sierra Leone ePassport.
The quality and duration of the passport books have been highly acclaimed by Sierra Leoneans traveling abroad, most of who had faced embarrassment in some airports due to the previous substandard passport books.
The Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), which form part of the contract is very clear that the price for passport as per the agreement is $100 but Net Page which happens to be local company financing the printing of the ePassport from Thomas De La Rue was only charging Le750, 000 in line with the initial dollar rate to the Leone at the time the agreement was ratified by parliament. “Owing to the fact that one hundred dollars is over one million Leones for close to two years now, NET PAGE has remained to be a trusted partner by charging the same Le750, 000 for close to three years even though one dollar is above a million Leones,” says Jusufu Kallon, who recently paid and collected his first-ever passport, and added that he came to Freetown from Kenema with the hope that passport price would have skyrocketed due to continuous increase in exchange rate. “I was so surprised to see Immigrations Officials collecting Ler750, 000 from me. I want to thank the government and those printing our passport for maintaining the price for especially the poor people,” he remarked.
In spite of this great effort, some ill-motivated people in society are creating an impression as if nothing is going on positive about the passport system, which is why some Senior Authorities at the Immigration Department are of the view that other countries are looking for such opportunities to have their passport price to be stabilized.
It was recently the Ghanaian Parliament approved an upward review of passport application fees effective February 1; whilst that of Sierra Leone’s remains the same in spite of the hike in exchange rates.
Thomas De La Rue Company has been doing business with successive governments for more than four decades with strong and positive records on printing services.
According to ‘Clause 5’ of the agreement, the initial sales price of the e-passport shall be the equivalent of $120 USD in Leones and this has to be reviewed periodically based on the inflation rate in Sierra Leone.
The original agreement dated 11 February 2014 was for the provision of e-passports and Clause 5 of the said agreement has to do with the payment.
Because the Clause was not too clear, an amendment was made to Clause 5,” and the agreement of 3 August 2014 price was reduced from $120 USD to $100 USD and Clause 5 was made clearer by stating “as the price for the e-passport is $100 USD or the equivalent in Leones, which could be reviewed periodically based on the inflation rate in the country.”
When the original agreement was signed and the exchange rate was Le5,000, the price for the passport by then was Le500,000 but now because the Leones has lost value, like $1 USD was initially Le7,500 the cost of e-passport according to a new amendment was increased to Le750,000. Since 2018, no further increase in price has been made by the government and the contractor has never complained about realizing a loss in the business.
“Those preaching hate messages against NET PAGE they should be able to understand that the passport contract with Thomas De La Rue was and is more of a blessing to Sierra Leone than a curse,” an Immigration Officer said.