KATHMANDU: The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee today re-directed the government to follow the bidding process as per the existing law to print and purchase Machine Readable Passports ensuring the people's fundamental right to get it at the earliest.

In its unanimous decision, the PAC has condemned the government for not adhering to the directive given earlier by the parliamentary committee.

"Printing or purchasing process of the MRP is purely a commercial activity," the PAC said, adding, "The committee concludes that the government's decision to cancel the bidding process to print the MRP is against law as well as the misuse of authority. It is unfortunate that the government ignored and disobeyed the committee's directive."

It has also raised concern about the leadership and officials of the foreign ministry for doing precious little to meet the International Civil Aviation Organisation's MRP deadline for the last five years. It has also directed the government to thoroughly probe into why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not fulfil its responsibility in the last five years and take to task those responsible for creating such a mess.

The ministry had opened the bidding process last year and four international companies -- Overthur of France, Gemalto of Finland, Three M Technology of Singapore and Sagem of France - qualified for the final bidding. But MoFA secretary Madan Kumar Bhattarai scrapped the bidding process seven days before the last date citing technical reasons. One of them would have won the contract for printing the MRP had the bidding process not been scrapped.

MoFA sources said the Overthur of France had offered the lowest bid of US$ 12 for a copy of MRP. The then MoFA secretary Gyan Chandra Acharya, now Nepal's permanent representative to UN, had initiated the bidding process.

This is the third time that the parliamentary committee has directed the government to print the MRP through a bidding process under the Public Procurement Act.

The PAC on February 25 had directed the government to follow the bidding process to print and purchase the MRP. But the cabinet decided to get the MRP printed from Indian-government-owned Security Printing and Minting Corporation based on PAC's February 14 directive that allowed the government to hold bilateral negotiations with other countries, including India, to get MRP printed at the earliest. But PM Madhav Kumar Nepal, while attending the PAC meeting on April 5, claimed that the government decided to negotiate with India to get the MRP printed from its Security Printing and Minting Corporation, abiding by the PAC's February 14 directive.

Dr Prakash Chandra Lohani, a PAC member, said the government had no other option but to follow the parliamentary directive. He said the issue would also be raised in the parliament. On Thursday, the PAC members were divided over whether to issue fresh directive to the government to follow the bidding process on MRP.