Tanzania government saved millions of dollars in procuring the electronic passport, President John Pombe Magufuli has revealed.
Boasting tamper proof electronic features, the electronic passport launched at the Immigration Headquarters is expected to help government end misuse or fraud associated with the current manual passport issuance system.
Speaking at the ceremony on Wednesday, Magufuli shocked officials when he revealed that the electronic passport project cost $57m.
Yet, said Magufuli, the initial cost from contractors was $200m.
“As you can see, we saved a lot of money,” said Magufuli, who has since won reputation for cracking down on deeply entrenched corruption in Tanzania’s multi-billion dollar projects.
The project was implemented by a US company called HDI Global.
Officials said at the ceremony that the electronic passport would link their borders to a central coordination system.
Tanzania’s 40 embassies will be linked to the system which implies that nationals who lose their passports can as well use an electronic version which contains one’s details in a chip.
The electronic passport is part of the broader e-border management.
The new development comes against the backdrop of last year’s directive from the 35th EAC Council of Ministers meeting to Partner States to commence issuance of the New EA e-Passport by January 31, 2018.
This was after the consideration of the different status of preparedness by the Partner States during a meeting in Arusha.
Two years ago, regional leaders ordered the phasing out programme for the current machine readable East African and National Passports from 1st January 2017 to 31 December 2018.
While Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda reported to have had plans to commence issuance of the New International EA e-passport not later than April 2017, this dream is yet to be realised.
The new e-passport database is enhanced with Automated Fingerprint Verification system (AFIS) to minimise fraud, identity theft, forgery and passport skimming.
It replaces the machine readable East African and ordinary passports issued by the member states and is available in diplomatic, service and ordinary categories.
The standard international e-Passport will have a chip that holds the same information that is printed on the passport’s data page, the holder’s name, date of birth, and other biographic information.
The new passport also comes with a biometric identifier and bears a digital photograph of the holder as well as digital security features to prevent unauthorised reading or “scanning” of data stored.
According to President Magufuli, the e-Passport is expected to boost free movement of people across the region and will be in line with implementation of the Common Market protocol which guaranteed the right to move between countries in East Africa.
The new EAC travel document comes in red, green and sky blue —the colours of the EAC flag — but with text and national emblems, in gold to complete its face.
The colour of the passport depends on categories. For instance, EAC diplomats will carry a passport that is red in colour, green for officials and sky blue for ordinary people.
The outer front cover will have the words ‘East African Community’ in gold on top and below the name of the issuing Partner States will be pasted.