Thandeka Moyo, Chronicle Reporter
THE Registrar General’s (RG) Office has a backlog of 166 500 passports dating back from May 1 this year owing to foreign curency shortages.
According to the RG’s Office Clients Service Charter, the cheapest passport valued at $53 should be issued within four weeks.
However, applicants are now waiting for more than three months to get one as forex challenges have crippled the department’s capacity to produce 3 000 passports daily.
Addressing journalists in Bulawayo yesterday, the Registrar General Mr Clemence Masango said his office was even failing to keep up with emergency passport applications which normally should be processed within 24 hours.
“We are doing our very best to produce passports and we have a backlog from May which means we have to produce 166 500 passports. This figure excludes the number of new applications we receive daily which are an average of 2 100,” said Mr Masango.
“We have a capacity to produce about 3 000 passports daily but given the current challenges we are failing to keep up. All passport materials, threads, ink and stationery is sourced from outside the country and like any Government department, we have to rely on forex allocations which are highly competitive.”
He said the Passport Office had finished processing April applications and they will now work on May applications going forward.
Mr Masango also took the chance to clear the air around emergency travel documents.
“Emergency travel documents are only issued to those who intend to go to countries like Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. Countries like Botswana and South Africa no longer accept them hence we are no longer issuing them to anyone intending to go there,” he said.
Mr Masango said they were planning to open new Registry offices in Magwegwe and Cowdray Park suburbs to address the growing demand for official documents.
He said the department was also facing staff shortages as it was operating with less than 50 percent of its manpower requirements.
Mr Masango said members of the public should report any official who demands bribes.
He said members of the public on their part should also not entice staff members if the war against corruption is to be won.
“We are also working on uniforms and tags so that people can easily identify our staff. We will also introduce online passport applications to reduce interactions between our staff and members of the public,” he said.
The Registrar General’s Office recently raised concern over the high number of uncollected passports some of which were processed in 2000.
Some of the passports were applied for as urgent and got priority over non-urgent applications despite the department’s limited resources.