Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to clarify the cancellation of the international bidding process for Machine Readable Passports (MRP).
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had circulated a directive to its members to upgrade passports to machine readable versions a decade ago but the government did nothing for nine years.
The foreign ministry suddenly cancelled the bidding process that had finally begun six months ago. It will take at least another six months for a new bidding process and printing of the MRPs. As per ICAO law, no conventional passport issued after 1 April 2010 will be valid. However, those issued before the deadline will be valid until November 2015.
When Sujata Koirala arrived for questioning, she looked restless and was in a hurry. She tried to deflect the barrage of questions and responded too fast. Here is the conversation between one of the committee members, Prakash Chandra Lohani, and Minister Koirala:
Lohani: Four companies were on the short-list. So one of the companies had to be given the contract. But the bidding process was stopped. Why?
Koirala: How long shall we talk about this? Ask me something else.
Aren't you the Foreign Minister? You have to answer all the questions this committee has.
I have other programs to attend. I am in a hurry. Please talk faster.
Who are you to give directions to the committee? I am not your secretary. You may go.
Why are you angry? How many times are we going to repeat this conversation?