Halt process of establishing security press: PAC

Kathmandu, February 20

The Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament today directed the government to completely halt the process of setting up the planned security press.

A few hours after the release of an audiotape that revealed Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota, who has since resigned, negotiating kickbacks with a Swiss equipment supplier in the government’s security printing press procurement deal, the House panel wrote a letter to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology asking it not to proceed with the security press procurement and establishment process until further notice.

After the audiotape was released, members of the House panel had asked PAC Chairman Bharat Kumar Sah to investigate the process of procuring the security printing press.

The government had initiated the process of establishing a security printing press in the country to print secured documents, certificates and stickers, including passports, excise-duty stickers and driving licences on its own. On November 23, the Cabinet had given approval to MoCIT to procure necessary materials for the printing press either from the German firm Bundesdruckerei or the IN Groupe of France.

However, PAC had started a probe into the establishment process of the security printing press in the first week of January based on complaints regarding possible anomalies in the process and the government’s suspicious move to procure printing press equipment without announcing a global tender.

Bypassing the scientific process of global tender, the government had opted to set up the security printing press under government-to-government modality and had sought proposals from interested firms of Germany, France and Switzerland through their respective embassies in Nepal.

Meanwhile, the PAC released a ‘discussion paper’ it has prepared on this issue questioning the rationale behind establishing a security printing press under G2G modality by avoiding the global tender process. The committee has also charged the government with attempting to award the printing press project without analysing its proper cost.

The House panel has also questioned the rationale behind bypassing the interest shown by Swiss firm KBA NotaSis and Polish firm PWPW SA to set up a security printing press in Nepal. In July, the Polish firm through the Embassy of Poland in India, had expressed its interest to set up security printing press in Nepal while the Swiss firm had expressed its interest to set up security printing press under build-operate-transfer model.