The Ministry of Internal Affairs has cleared the air on the shortage of passport booklets.

Minister responsible, Andrew Napuat said via a press statement that the Ministry purchased 10,000 booklets in the beginning of 2018 which the supplier delayed the shipment until end of May 2018.

“Due to the delay we had the same issue of passport shortage during the beginning of June 2018 and the department was allegedly blamed by the supplier for the delay of payment which was already done on April 2018,” he said.

“It took a month then before we received the 10,000 booklets in the month of June and with close monitoring by the department, it was expected that the stock will have run out by end of 2018 thus another payment was done in October for another 5,000 booklets.”

Mr Napuat stated that the supplier promised to send the order before the end of November but failed to do so.

“The supplier again promised the end of December but that has not happen and we’re out of stock,” he said.

“An assessment was conducted by the current management to identify the issue of delay as payment was done in advance.”

Mr Napuat said the team found out that the government has made arrangement with a third company in another country and the printing company happens to be another country.

“We don’t have a direct contact with the printing company so there is confusion on how many companies we have to go through before the printing company,” he said.

“The assessment also identified that the previous company who is the supplier is closing down so the company handling our payments must find another company to do the printing-that was the reason behind the delay.”

Mr Napuat said the Ministry has taken the matter seriously and has taken actions to address the supplier issue.

“On December 24, 2018 the Ministry through the office of the Acting Director of Internal Affairs formally terminated the contract of the supplier of the passport booklet, as the supplier itself cannot sort out the issue” he said.

“This was done as the delay of booklets was an ongoing saga.”

According to the press statement, the Ministry has engaged a new supplier on conditions given by the Ministry.

“The conditions are we will go and see those printing machines and arrangements will be made directly between the Vanuatu Immigration Services with the new printing company-there will be no more third company as the previous arrangement,” Napuat said.

“With the new arrangements, we want an improvement in the security features in the passports of Vanuatu even the quality of the pages and the cover of the passport booklet.

“The Ministry has arranged with the current supplier for an officer to the country of print to collect all passports and bring them back to Vanuatu, this is to avoid any further delay of transport arrangements into the country.”

Mr Napuat assured that the 5,000 booklets purchased in October last year will be supplied by the company.

There was a long line of people waiting to collect their passport at the Civil Status office yesterday (Friday) who had urgent need to access passports to travel.

“The government should deal with only one company to avoid these unnecessary issues,” a frustrated client said.

“There should be an investigation into the matter and prosecute whoever involved-we have already sold our flag and passports hence all these unnecessary hiccups.”

The amount spent to acquire the booklets is approximately VT4.9 Million.

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