Solon seeks probe into DFA passport machine

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez

Posted date: March 05, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – An investigation into the awarding by the Department of Foreign Affairs of its P859-million machine readable passport and visa project to a French company, is being sought by a lawmaker at the House of Representatives.

The Francois-Charles Oberthure Fiduciaire is the same firm that printed two years ago the P100 “Arrovo bills, referring to the error on the name of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In filing House Resolution 1038, Anakpawis partylist Representative Rafael Mariano asked the committee on foreign affairs to conduct the inquiry to find out the “validity and wisdom” of the award and to determine if the shift from a build-operate-transfer mode of procurement to a government-funded project was in accordance with existing laws.

The project was originally awarded in January 2000 to BCA International, a 100% Filipino-owned corporation, but it never got to implement the project because the DFA sat on it.

In 2005, the department rescinded the contract with BCA on questions of its financial capacity.

In June 2008, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas approved the post qualification bid of P859.7 million by Francois-Charles Oberthure Fiduciaire for the “supply, delivery, and commissioning of a system for the production of Electronic Passport Booklets” and consequently, the Notice of Award was given to the firm. This time, the undertaking would be funded by the DFA Passport Reserve Fund.

“There is a need to inquire what were the DFA’s compelling reasons for abandoning the original BOT scheme in undertaking the Machine Readable Passport and Visa project (MRPV) which would have entailed no cost to the government, particularly on whether the shift in the mode of undertaking the MRPV project to one funded by the government was more beneficial and advantageous to the Philippine government than the cost-free BOT scheme undertaken by the BCA International,” Mariano said in his resolution.

“There is a need to inquire whether it has become an unwritten but official policy of the government to favor foreign firms in the award of government projects to the detriment of firms which are 100 % Filipino ownership,” Mariano said.

He said the French firm was the same company that supplied some 80 million P100 bills with the misspelled surname of the President. The same firm was involved in the $34-million contract to supply passport-making equipment to Kenya, which its government scrapped due to the absence of a bidding process, Mariano added.


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