After initially working with the Malawi Police Service (MPS), the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has left MPS to investigate some officers at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services over the 250 blank passports that went missing last year.
ACB senior public relations officer Egrita Ndala confirmed in a response to a questionnaire on Friday that they started investigating the matter and were working closely with MPS, but have since left it in the hands of the police.
“[Our institution] made a decision to leave the investigation in the hands of the Malawi Police Service, which in the bureau’s view had covered more ground than the bureau and that their mandate is more relevant on the matter.
“The bureau felt that continuing with the investigation would be a duplication of efforts, which may not be in the interest of the public that both agencies serve,” she said.
Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security Principal Secretary Sam Madula earlier in an interview told Nation on Sunday that they submitted a report to ACB and MPS with a number of recommendations, including to investigate some officers at Immigration,
Madula said, in an interview Wednesday, that the ministry carried out some investigations within and outside Malawi and submitted the report, adding that it would be up to the agencies with investigative and prosecutorial powers to take up the matter further.
The issue was first exposed in Parliament in May this year by an opposition legislator, Harry Mkandawire, who wanted minister of Home Affairs to explain what measures were being taken on 250 blank passports that went missing at the department.
Our sources—both at Home Affairs and Immigration—disclosed that an investigative team that Home Affairs Ministry set up and travelled to South Africa where a Nigerian was arrested earlier in December with a fake passport gave serious revelations about involvement of some Immigration officials.
Madula, in the interview, declined to share details of the report, fearing it would jeopardise investigations by the State agencies. He said the only authority to shed more light on the matter was MPS, through its Fiscal and Fraud Section.
“We made a number of recommendations and removed ourselves from whatever will be happening to avoid the perceived bias [Immigration being a department under the ministry]. We submitted our report and Fiscal Police is the main player in handling this,” Madula said.
Head of Fiscal Police Isaac Norman, when asked about the number of officers implicated in the scam and the progress of their investigations, among other issues, said they were handling the matter, but referred Nation on Sunday to MPS national spokesperson James Kadadzera.
Kadadzera confirmed in an interview they were investigating the matter, but did not have details such as the number of officers involved.
Immigration spokesperson Joseph Chauwa said in an interview on Wednesday that he was aware that the team that went to South Africa submitted a report to Ministry of Home Affairs, adding that some Immigration officers were part of the team that travelled to South Africa.
Chauwa said he was aware the team that travelled to South Africa also had some members from MPS.
An ordinary passport costs K60 000, meaning the department lost K15 million if the booklets were to be processed as ordinary passports. But it is believed the passports issued illegally cost more.
The Immigration spokesperson said the department was yet to get a new development on the matter.
Mkandawire, People’s Party (PP) member of Parliament for Mzimba West, raised the alarm in Parliament in May that on December 9 2016, the Department of Immigration received a consignment of passports from Technobrain, the supplier of books, whose quantity had one box containing 250 blank passports missing.
Mkandawire said a stores clerk refused to sign for the consignment, but the chief Immigration officer Masauko Medi signed for the consignment even though one box was missing.
The legislator told Parliament that the missing serial numbers of the box were from MW853501 to MW853750, adding that it was later discovered that one of the missing passports, numbered MW853507 was issued to the Nigerian who posed as a Malawian from Mangochi.
Mkandawire said the Nigerian en-route to UK and smuggling goods, used the name Vincent Banda and was arrested in South Africa. The lawmaker Parliament that what it meant was that 249 passports were still unaccounted for.
Former Home Affairs minister Grace Chiumia, now heading a different ministry, said her ministry was aware of the syndicate and it was being investigated, informing the House that passport numbers MW853501 to MW853750 had been declared null and void.
Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya had asked both parties of the House to take the issue seriously and cautiously as it was a matter putting the national security at stake.