The Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services is rationing the production of passports due to a shortage of consumables.
The situation has seen the department prioritising emergency cases.
But in a written response to a questionnaire, Immigration national spokesperson Wellington Chiponde denied that the situation has reached critical levels.
He said: “We are currently issuing passports with a rationing approach due to inadequate passport consumables, but we have not reached that critical stage of only prioritising emergency and express passport applications.
“To fully address this situation, we are engaging the supplier [Techno Brain Global FZE] of the passport consumables to supply us with speed.
“Normal issuance of passport will resume as soon as the supplier delivers and, as a department, we are doing everything possible to normalise the situation.”
Chiponde’s response comes amid concerns from some new passport and renewal applicants that they were told to wait until further notice. In some cases, those seeking passports to travel for business such as conferences are being asked to submit letters from their employers or invitations to facilitate speedy processing.
In March 2019, the Malawi Government signed a contact with Techno Brain Global FZE of United Arab Emirates to upgrade the country’s passport issuance system and introduce electronic passport (e-passport) under the Build, Operate and Transfer model by providing 800 000 electronic passports under procurement reference number IM/01/272/07.
Chiponde said that since January 2020 when e-passports were rolled out, citizens are at liberty to use either their machine readable only or e-passport.
He said this will be the arrangement until such a time when government will recalls all machine readable only passports from circulation.
On whether investigations into the passports contract have an impact on availability of consumables, Chiponde said the contract is still in force and they expect the contractor to meet obligations.
Passports, visas and permits are among sources of government’s non-tax revenue which means a slowdown in processing applications may have an impact on collections.
In the 2021/22 National Budget, non-tax revenue is at K56.9 billion and tax revenue at K1.044 trillion while in the 2020/21 National Budget, non-tax revenue was projected at K69.6 billion and tax revenue stood at K1.116 trillion.
Non-tax revenue also includes fees from drivers’ licences and other services offered by government ministries, departments and agencies.
The e-passport fee structure issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services shows that an ordinary passport of 36 pages obtained under normal service is at K90 000 while the 48-page one is at K130 000.
Express service for the 36-page booklet is at K160 000 and K180 000 for the 48-page booklet while replacement for a lost or damaged booklet fetches K150 000 and K170 000, respectively.