By Audrey Kapalamula & Rebecca Chimjeka
A year has gone now without the government identifying a new contractor to take over the printing of passports in the country despite 13 companies expressing interest to take up the contract.
The delays to identify the new company continue to put a burden on citizens who want to access a passport at a normal fee as the Department of Immigration and Citizen Services is only considering those with emergency issues.
Thirteen firms including eight local suppliers expressed interest to take over the contract from Techno Brain whose contract Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda terminated.
In an interview Tuesday, Nyirenda did not disclose the reasons for the delay but said procurement processes are at an advanced stage and the new company will be identified soon.
“We know that passport books are out of stock but my belief is that everything will be completed soon.
“Of course I am not the one that handles those things, but apart from printing enough passports we may also have reduced passport fees,” he said.
Chief Immigration Officer Charles Kalumo said he could not comment much as Techno Brain was still with the institution.
However, Malawians in diaspora have raised their dissatisfaction with the current passport situation.
At a meeting with Malawi ambassador to the United Kingdom Thomas Bisika recently, the citizens complained of their failure to renew their passports.
Bisika confirmed holding the meeting emphasizing that his office would be collecting biometrics while a concerned official sends all documents to Malawi where a prescribed fee is paid.
“This is an interim arrangement as the Department of Immigration is working on installation of passport issuance systems in all embassies,” Bisika said.
He said that those whose passports expired suggested that they should be given letters of support which they can take to authorities in the UK while they wait for their passports to be renewed.
A visit to Blantyre and Lilongwe immigration offices showed that authorities are producing 10 emergency passports per day for diplomats and those seeking medical assistance abroad.
The government and Techno Brain signed a contract for $60 million (about 47.4 billion) in 2019 for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) firm to upgrade the country’s passport issuance system.
The two parties also entered a Build- Operate-and-Transfer (BOT) model agreement to provide 800,000 electronic passports.
Executive Director for Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (Csat) Willy Kambwandira said the government’s failure to get a contractor in one year when the procurement process started creates a fertile ground for corruption.
“One would only speculate that these delays are intentional to create panic and benefit from it.
“We ask the government to speed up the procurement process for the new supplier for the printing services. Let there be a transparent and expedited procurement process for the new printing process,” Kambwandira said.