By Cletus Mushanawani
Government has authorised the Civil Registry Department to charge US$318 for passport applicants in the diaspora while local charges remain unchanged.
Last month Government revealed that passport fees would be increased significantly to enable the Registrar-General’s office to clear the huge backlog.
Addressing the media yesterday, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe said: “The Ministry is aware of the high expectations from members of the public for timely provision of service particularly in the area of issuance of travel documents.
“The Ministry is also aware of what citizens are going through especially those living abroad whose passports have expired.
“Citizens in the Diaspora need to have valid passports in order to regularise their stay in the host countries. As a way of assisting the department to attend to requirements for passports by citizens in the Diaspora, Government has therefore authorised the Civil Registry Department to charge US$318 for passports, in respect of those in the Diaspora. The applications will be prioritised on an urgent basis.”
He said details on the implementation of this decision were being worked out by the Civil Registry Department in consultation with other stakeholders.
An ordinary passport costs $53, while an emergency passport costs $253. The prices were gazetted in 2010 during the US dollar era.
The Civil Registry Department now has a backlog of 359 288 passports which dates back to August 2018.
This has been attributed to the limited availability of foreign currency to buy the required consumables such as ink, films, ribbon and passport paper.
“The situation has been exacerbated by the low passport fees being charged by the Civil Registry Department. The department is charging its clients in local currency yet consumables for the production of passports are imported and require foreign currency,” said Minister Kazembe.
“The prices of passports remain unchanged. Contrary to what was published in the media before regarding an increase in the passport fees, I want to make it clear that nothing like that has happened. When new fees have been approved, communication will be made through the proper channels.
“Those who will apply for the urgent passports will get them within the prescribed period of 24 hours.”
Currently 2 000 passports are being produced a day and they are processing the September 2018 applications.
If adequate foreign currency is made available, the total number of passports produced on a daily basis can be doubled to 4 600 and this will go a long way in clearing the backlog.
Turning to corruption allegations levelled against some employees in the Civil Registry Department who are said to be demanding bribes for them to speedily process passports, Minister Kazembe urged members of the public to become whistleblowers for the culprits to be punished.
“It takes two people to engage in corruption. We want to urge members of the public to report these issues so that we can deal with the culprits once and for all.
“The problem is that people are not coming forward with the necessary information so that these issues are addressed. We should all desist from promoting corruption. We rely on members of the public to help us fight this scourge,” said Minister Kazembe. The Herald