Passport mess

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ABOUT 2,200 individuals have received multiple possible passports from the Immigration Department in the Ministry of Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration.

The Office of the Auditor General Office found this in its Special Investigation Audit Report into the Passport System on February this year.

The special audit was to confirm whether there was evidence that passports were being issued illegally.

This followed a recent Cyber Security review highlighting sufficient reason to suspect the Passport System may have been compromised by internal or external actors which may have resulted in unauthorised Solomon Islands passports being issued illegally.

In their testing, the Audit has initially identified almost 700 individuals with possible multiple biometric passports (in the e-passport system) and up to 1500 possible multiple passports from the old passport system.

“We undertook testing of 27 individuals and confirmed 10 had at least two live biometric passports in issue.

“Of the 27, 11 were also found to have a valid passport in the old system,” the audit found.

The audit report states these are not deemed to be isolated incidents as their analysis and testing has shown a systematic failure of key controls relating to the issue of passports.

“This requires immediate corrective action to be taken.

“We found the contract in place for the provision of the e-passport system had not been reviewed by the Solicitor or Attorney General prior to signing,” audit report said.

The audit recommends engaging with the provider to resolve some of the gaps in the contract and to ensure a firm basis from which the delivery of the service can be monitored into the future.

“Due to the national significance of the passport system and the reputational damage there could be through such control failings we recommend that the Ministry develop an action plan to address these issues as a priority.

“Given the significance of the issues raised we will undertake a review in 3 months to confirm immediate priority actions have been undertaken followed by a review within 1 year to ensure ongoing progress is being made,” audit said.

 “Due to the failure of these controls this creates opportunities which could be exploited.

“We are therefore unable to provide assurance that passports with false information have not been issued,” audit said.

“This severely undermines the integrity of the Solomon Islands official travel document which could restrict the future rights of Solomon Islands passport holders travelling or working offshore,” audit found.

The audit report was tabled in Parliament on Monday.