Consumables’ supply constraints have forced the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services to scale down on passport production in the country.
Sources within the department confided in The Daily Times that the department’s service provider is holding on to consumables known as ink-ribbons because the government owes him money.
People we talked to said the department continues to get money from those applying for new passports or those seeking to replace expired ones even though the document is not being printed, particularly in the Northern Region.
“I applied for an express passport on July 27 this year but, to date, I have not received the document. Ideally, I was supposed to get it the next day but nothing of that sort has happened and, yet, I paid all the money: K160, 000.
“The problem is that I was supposed to travel to South Africa but I cannot do so,” he said.
Another client we came across at the department’s Northern Region offices said he applied for an express passport on August 3 2021 but nothing had materialised.
“I wanted to get the passport as quickly as possible because I had a trip to Botswana but, as at now, I am being held up through delays at the department. Had they informed me that they were not printing the national document, I would simply have applied for a normal passport because what is happening is not making economic sense,” he said.
Northern Region spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services, Blackwell Lungu, acknowledged the extent of the problem but said they have scaled-down and not halted the process.
Lungu said the department was only considering emergency cases, citing people in need of medical attention.
“We ran out of some consumables sometime back and we are still expecting a consignment from the headquarters… currently we are advising all our clients that we are on strict rationing,” he said.
But some sources in the department told The Daily Times that they had not printed any passport this month, particularly at the Mzuzu offices, adding that people are simply collecting passports that were printed a while ago while others are coming for other services.
In Lilongwe, Immigration spokesperson Martin Gongolo said they can print an average of 40 passports a day but, at their maximum, they produce up to 400 documents, which represents a 90 percent drop.
In the Eastern Region, Immigration spokesperson Edward Chidzalo said production levels had dropped by almost half.
“We produce about 80 to 100 copies in a day but we have reduced the volume to about 30 to 40 in a day,” he said.
The department’s national spokesperson Wellington Chiponde emphasised that they had not stopped the issuance of passports but, rather, had scaled down production due to inadequate consumables in stock.
“Our approach towards issuance of passports is to prioritise emergency and express passport applications. To fully address this situation, we are engaging the supplier of the passport consumables to supply them to us with speed,” he said.
Chiponde said normal issuance of passports would resume as soon as the supplier delivered passport consumables, a date not known.
Techno Brain Global FZE is the supplier of passport booklets to the Malawi Government and uses materials such as ink ribbons, crystagrams—a series of holographic images— among other materials.