BY UCHIZI MBANGE
The Department of Immigration and Citizen Services has suspended the issuance of ordinary passport and is only issuing out emergency ones following the termination of the previous government’s contract with Techno Brain.
Immigration spokesman Wellington Chiponde said those that can receive emergency passports are those that “are travelling for medical attention, academic reasons and other reasons that may compel them to travel as soon as possible.”
But Chiponde said the process of identifying a new contractor to take over the process has since commenced.
He said: “We may not give the exact date of bringing in the new contractor considering that the procurement process involves a lot of stakeholders and all procurement procedures have to be followed.”
Just weeks into office Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda smelt a rat in the deal between the department and Techno Brain and referred the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to have it investigated.
Among others, Chakaka Nyirenda said the government terminated the contract as the company was demanding money from Account Number One against the Public- Private Partnership Act and International Investment Law.
The department entered into a 42-month contract with Techno Brain Global FZE (Techno Brain) in 2019 for the upgrade of the passport issuance system and introduction of electronic passports.
The contract, which cost Malawi $60,800,000, meant Techno Brain was given the task of printing and issuing 800,000 e-passports over a period of three years.
Techno Brain was to fund all the agreed deliverables and recoup its investment from the sale of passports.
Issuance of electronic passports in Malawi kick-started on January 15 2020, replacing the Machine Readable Zone passports.
So far, according to the Ministry of Homeland Security, since January 2020, the company has been able to produce 80,000 passports, attributing the delay to travel restrictions necessitated by the surge in Covid cases.