The Government of Liberia and Buck Press Limited have extended the contract for the issuance of the Liberian ECOWAS Biometric Passports which will transition into e-Passports by August this year.
According to a Foreign Affairs Ministry release, the extended Restated Biometric Passport Contract was signed at the Foreign Ministry’s conference room on last Tuesday.
The managing director, Mr. Eric Kofi Buckman; technical director, Mr. Charles K. Boakye; and general manager, Mr. Francis Nyanin signed on behalf of Buck Press Limited while the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Madam Marjon V. Kamara, Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Mr. Boima Kamara and the Deputy Commissioner General for Operations/Technical Services at the Liberia Revenue Authority, Mrs. Dekontee King-Sackie, signed on behalf of the Liberian government. The contract was attested to by the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frederick D. Cherue.
Following the signing ceremony, Minister Kamara thanked everyone who played a part in the exercise for a job well done, adding: “Tedious, demanding and difficult as negotiations were, the results were positive.”
She said she looks forward to a good and harmonious working relationship with Buck Press Ltd. considering a lot of deliverables linked to the contract. “I hope we can get through in a timely manner based on the schedule of implementation,” she said; noting that they are working against time…”
Minister Kamara warned that expectations are high and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can only deliver if both can keep the partnership strong, open and candid with each other because both parties have a stake in what happens.
In response, Buck Press MD Buckman, thanked both teams for an excellent job. He assured all that they will produce good quality ePassports that will stand the test of time.
“It’s going to be like ePassports that the European Union Member States are currently using,” he assured.
Mr. Buckman noted some challenges earlier in the contract but assured that those have been overcome and hopefully they will begin producing the new e-Passports in the next four months.
Although the automatic contract extension should have lasted a further six years based on the previous contract, it is noteworthy to state that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs negotiated a reduction of the contractual period to four years at no extra cost to the government.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs additionally negotiated a complete upgrade from the current 2D barcode Machine Readable Passport (MRP), with biometric features to the very latest state-of-the art e-Passport, with enhanced security features and an embedded RFID micro-processor chip. This is equivalent to the very latest European Union Passport.
The 2D barcode Machine Readable Passport being phased out has the fingerprints of the passport holder in the booklet. The new e-Passport booklet will no longer have a 2D barcode, but will hold all the fingerprints in addition to the facial image of the holder on an RFID microprocessor chip.
In 2005, Liberia was the first ECOWAS country to fully embrace and issue 2D barcode passports based on ICAO security recommendations. In the same year, it also became the first sub-Saharan African country to firmly link the biometric features of the holder to the passport booklet.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminded the parties that since the streamlining of the new passport application process, no eligible passport applicant must have to wait any more than one week to receive their new passport.
The Ministry is working at improving this service further by providing an ‘Expedited Application Service’ where an applicant, for a fee of US$50, can obtain his or her passport the same day.
Since the introduction of the biometric passport, Liberian and foreign security operatives have easily detected all forgery attempts and the Government is determined to maintain its status at the forefront of passport security and insisted on the substantial passport upgrade with Buck Press Ltd.