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Proper procedures were followed to destroy passports – PS

Proper procedures were followed to destroy passports – PS

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The Ministry of National Security has responded to comments by opposition parliamentarian Daniel Cummings that the Government Printer was transferred in June to facilitate the destruction of passport books.{{more}}

“We only used the Printery as a matter of convenience, because of its location … its proximity to the Immigration Department, Permanent Secretary Godfred Pompey told SEARCHLIGHT Friday.

“We could have used anywhere else,” he further said in response to comments Cummings made on October 17 on the New Democratic party’s “New Times” on NICE Radio.

Pompey added that he did not know when the Printer was transferred and that the transfer was done in the normal course of the government service.

“I don’t know why he wants to tie that with the destruction of passports,” Pompey said.

“We are not destroying marijuana or drugs, where you want a public showing; these are government documents … For example we have to destroy the electoral ballots over a period of time; do we call the press for that? For what purpose?”

He added that his ministry followed the proper procedure cited for the destruction of any record or government document.

Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr Ralph Gonsalves told Parliament on October 11 that permission was sought by the Chief Immigration Officer and that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security wrote the Director of Finance and Planning.

Permission was finally granted on July 17, 2012 by the prime minister for the destruction of the passports and between the 6th and 8th of September, 2012, some 9,789 passports were destroyed, Gonsalves said.

The prime minister explained that when it was first discovered by immigration officials that the batch of 25,000 passports was not uniform, Canadian Bank Note (CBN) was immediately contacted and they indicated that they would supply a new bundle of passports, as was evident in a November 18, 2011 letter to Pompey by Sami Elton, director, Business Development at Canadian Bank Note.

“I wish to extend our sincere apologies for the recently discovered error in the printing of the St Vincent and the Grenadines passports. On learning of the error, we immediately convened a meeting of senior executives and technical experts to ascertain the extent of the error, discovering reasons for its occurrence and to establish a corrective action plan,” Elton wrote.

Gonsalves told Parliament that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) permitted the use of the passports, but that after the bad batch was replaced, the remainder was quarantined and then destroyed.

The press release from the Ministry of National Security indicated that the passports were destroyed in the presence of a representative from CBN and two officers of the Immigration Department.

“The issue was further compounded by an attempt on the [radio] programme to tarnish the reputation of the Canadian Bank Note Company, the supplier of our passport books, National Lottery and Electoral Systems,” the statement said.

“There was/is no collusion — since the entire 25,000 books were replaced free of cost by the company. This development is particular worrying and ripe with legal implications,” the release further said.

In the old time days, information had to be written into the passport; now everything is printed, Pompey explained.

“We now have a secure document with all kinds of security features built in to it … our passports are 100 per cent more secure than what was before,” he said.

“It is time we stop making accusations or having discussions on things that we know nothing about,” Pompey said. (DD)

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