An additional $200M has been set aside in the 2019 budget for the printing of the new 64-page passport and birth certificates with additional security features, Minister of Public Affairs, Dawn Hastings-Williams told the Committee of Supply yesterday.
Hastings-Williams, standing in for Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix who is currently abroad, faced numerous questions from the opposition on the more than $1.5B allocated for Citizenship and Immigration Services. That Department is listed under the Ministry of the Presidency.
Turning attention to line item 6224 which covers print and non-print material, opposition MP Juan Edghill queried the reason behind the $238M allocation as compared to the $29M revised 2018 figure.
In responding, the Minister explained that the additional money will cater for the purchase of 200, 000 of the larger version of the existing passports and 150, 000 birth certificates.
Opposition MP Clement Rohee later inquired whether the minister has done a survey to estimate how many persons will be purchasing the new 64-page passport before ordering the stated amount. The minister informed that some persons will continue using the 32-page travel document and that the new passport is being procured by the Canadian Bank Note Company.
She would later explain that the $29M, 2018 figure was used to purchase 150, 000 birth certificates as well as to do regular printing in the ministry.
In responding to more questions from Edghill, she explained that the digitization of the General Register Office (GRO) records will end in August and the money budgeted for this also caters for the employment of data entry clerks and in house supervisors. She disclosed that the digitization as of now is approximately 80% complete.
With regards to the $4.2M set aside for the maintenance of buildings, Hastings-Williams said that this sum is for the routine maintenance of the Department’s new office located at Stephen Campbell House as well as the GRO.
Rohee then pointed out that based on his knowledge it is the Ministry of Public Infrastructure that is responsible for such maintenance work and asked how it is that this is not happening in this case.
In response, the Minister reiterated that the sum is for routine maintenance.
Later, with regards to $713 M allocated under capital expenditure for the purchase of furniture and equipment, she noted that 13 pieces of equipment are listed. She singled out the most expensive pieces and indicated that she will submit to the House the entire list as well as where they will be placed.
Included on the list are ten Automated Passport Control (APC) systems totalling $66.4M, thirty-three Passport Issuing Control (PIC) system workstations for Regions Two, Four, Seven and Nine totalling $330M, thirty six Border Management Systems (BMS) and six printers for certificates costing $15M total.
Meanwhile Minister in the Department of Public Service, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine revealed that included in 44 contract employees is a Coordinator of International Conferences who is being paid $721, 211 per month, a handyman and a student affairs officer
The Minister was at the time responding to a question from MP Ganga Persaud.
The $1.9B allocated was later approved by the Committee of Supply.