By Mukudzei Chingwere
The government yesterday marginally reviewed upwards, application fees for ordinary passports and approved the release by Treasury of US$4,5 million to boost the production cycle of passports and clear a 256 000 backlog.
The ordinary passport is now pegged at US$60 from US$53 while the one issued after three days now costs US$200 with the emergency one remaining at US$318.
Prior to the latest announcement, the Government was providing a subsidy for ordinary passports, with the production cost for a single passport at US$58.55.
There are three main stages in the production of passports, the first stage is the booklet printing which has a capacity to produce 8 000 passports a day.
The personalisation stage — the second step in the production line – has the capacity of 2 500 a day and while the final stage, the quality control has a daily capacity of 2 000.
The production mismatch is caused by the absence of adequate resources at stages two and three to complement the first stage. Speaking at a post-Cabinet briefing in Harare yesterday Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said: “Cabinet agreed that measures be taken to deal effectively with the current situation which is affecting locals and diasporans, alike.
“Thus passport fees were reviewed to US$60 and $200 for a three-day passport issuance, pegged at the average US$:ZW$ exchange rate.
“An emergency 24-hours passport remains pegged at a cost of US$318.00. This will ensure appropriate cost-factored passport revenue. E-Passport fees are pegged at US$80.00,” she said.
“In addition, Treasury will provide US$4,5 million to purchase the required equipment and consumables.”
Minister Mutsvangwa assured that passports issuance services would run uninterrupted until the backlog was cleared and the issuance shifts would be increased to three in order to expedite production.
“New machines are being acquired in order to improve operations. The training of personnel to work on the passport issuance programme will commence immediately.
“Import substitution will be embarked upon in order to reduce the imports bill by engaging local industry and the university innovation and industrial hubs,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the Cabinet noted that failure to provide passports on time was causing inconvenience to citizens.
“The passport production factory has an installed production capacity of 8 000 passport booklets per day. However, the passport personalisation capacity is way below at 2 500 passports per day, while the installed quality assurance is further down at 2 000 passports per day.
“Foreign currency is required for the off-shore procurement of consumables. However, the current fees payable in the local currency are no longer viable due to the fact that the auction exchange rate, when applied to the fees charged, translates to unviable returns on expenses,” she said. The Herald