Fate of biometric national ID card project hangs in balance

- Post Report, Kathmandu
The French firm, Morpho Security, selected to prepare the biometric cards is being sold by its mother company Safran SA

Apr 26, 2016-The fate of the much-awaited national identity card project is uncertain after French company Safran SA’s decision to sell Morpho Security, the firm selected for preparing the biometric cards.

Safran SA, the mother company, has decided to sell Morpho and it is in talks 

with several potential buyers, its CEO Philippe Petitcolin told reporters in Paris last month. 

The National Identity Card Management Centre (NIDMC) under the aegis of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) that oversees the execution of the pilot project funded by the Asian Development Bank had chosen the French-based Morpho Security for preparing 110,000 biometric cards that will ultimately replace citizenship cards.

The entire project, however, has run into controversy over “some security concerns”, especially because Morpho Security is also preparing similar biometric cards 

in India. 

The Parliament Accounts Committee (PAC) has put the project on hold for the last five months, seeking explanation from the prime minister and chief of the army staff whether selecting a firm that is working Indian government agencies “will have any security implications in Nepal” Morpho Security is currently involved in preparing similar kind of identity card in India, which is widely known as Aadhar cards.

The proposed ID card contains all personal data of every Nepali citizen. 

The prime minister and Army chief have refused to be present in the PAC meeting, hence the House panel has now asked Minister for Home Affairs Shakti Basnet to clarify security-related matters, according to Ram Hari Khatiwada, a PAC member.

The PAC is holding a meeting on Thursday to take a decision on whether to let the government take the project forward. 

“We are in a dilemma. On the one hand, the firm is losing money so there are chances it might go bankrupt. On the other hand, we have to carry forward such an important project,” said Khatiwada. 

Several international media outlets including Reuters news agency and others have reported that Safran SA, whose initial business is aerospace supplies, is mulling over selling Morpho Security.

Morpho won the competitive bidding announced by NIMC last year.

“We don’t know what will happen if the selected firm is sold by its mother company. We have to look into the nitty-gritty and legal complications and other technical aspects. It is difficult to comment at this stage,” said Dinesh Bhattarai, chief of NIMC.

Similarly, the bid bond of the Morpho is also going to expire on April-end. “If the government refuses to extend the bid bond, the project will collapse,” said Bhattarai. 

Published: 26-04-2016 08:06

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