By Witness Chipwere
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services has disclosed that it issued 68,970 passports from January to December this year, as compared to 63,288 passports printed during the same period last year.
Deputy spokesperson for the department, Clara Phiri, said this represents a 9 percent increase.
Ironically, the department faced the challenge of stock-out of consumables.
Due to the challenge, the department has been scaling down passport production.
At the height of the problem, the department, which set a ceiling of 1,000 printed passports across the country per day, Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services personnel could only print 200 passports per day.
About a year ago, the government cancelled a $60 million passport booklets deal with Technobrain, arguing that it was expensive.
Ironically, barely a year after the government cancelled the passport booklets deal with Technobrain, it went ahead to pay the firm K3.3 billion to supply passport consumables.
Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe disclosed this in Parliament on Monday when the august House discussed the Immigration Vote.
Gwengwe was asking the House to approve an upward adjustment of the Immigration Vote from K6,378,502,705 to K9,862,975,683.
Chikwawa East lawmaker Rodrick Khumbanyiwa asked Gwengwe to explain if the K3.3 billion was meant to go to Technobrain, to which the finance minister agreed.
“The K3.3 billion, yes, [it] went to Technobrain and they supplied some booklets. These are booklets that are currently being used by the department.
“But the issue is bigger than the K3.3 billion. There are contractual issues the department is, with the guidance of the Attorney General, looking at so that, going forward, there is a steady and consistent supply of booklets,” Gwengwe said.
But in a separate interview with The Daily Times, Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda said the Technobrain deal remains terminated.
According to Nyirenda, the K3.3 billion payout is part of the outstanding amount which is currently under dispute.
In 2019, Technobrain and the Malawi Government entered into a $60 million (about K61 billion) contract, which Nyirenda terminated on the ground that it was too expensive.
Meanwhile, the department has said it will intensify security checks during the festive season to curb cases of irregular immigrants.
“The department will intensify patrols and mount roadblocks so that there are no unnecessary movements, especially movements of irregular immigrants,” Phiri said.