Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
REGISTRAR-General Mr Clemence Masango has issued a stern warning to officials in his department who are capitalising on the challenges in the issuance of passports by demanding kickbacks from desperate citizens intending to acquire emergency travel documents.
Desperate Zimbabweans are parting with huge sums of money to pay bribes in order to obtain passports as the Registrar General’s office is battling an acute shortage of special paper and ink used to make passports, resulting in a huge backlog for travel documents.
In an interview, Mr Masango said Government officials should desist from taking advantage of the people’s desperate situation through taking bribes.
“Government policy as pronounced by His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa including our Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage (Cde Cain Mathema) reiterates the same point, which is zero tolerance to corruption. We therefore appeal to everyone, our clients, citizens and officials to desist from corruption,” he said.
Mr Masango said those caught engaging in corrupt activities would face the full wrath of the law.
“Corruption is a punishable offence and the cases that we will be able to detect will be dealt with by law enforcement agents and consequences will follow. Our position as a department is that when it comes to corruption there is no excuse and officials caught accepting bribes from clients will face the full wrath of the law,” he said.
“As civil servants we are already paid for the job that we are doing and there is no reason to extort or solicit for bribes. They (civil servants) are supposed to be content with the remuneration they are getting from the Government, if they feel the money is too little they should find elsewhere to go.”
Mr Masango urged the nation to be patient, saying the Government through Treasury has availed funds for the procurement of materials required in the production of passports.
“We have a backlog of passports which stands at over 3 000 and the production of passports is depressed due to lack of consumables, which are ink, ribbons and films. Payments have since been made by Treasury to support the department to get the required material, which we expect to receive within the next four weeks after which we will be able to revert to normal production capacity of 3 000 passports per day. We urge our citizens to be patient with us because as soon as we receive material we will see production and issuance of passports and a statement to that effect will be made to update our people,” he said.
Mr Masango said the department will be able to clear the backlog within 100 working days once the first consignment of consumables arrives.
At the moment the department is only printing 100 passports a day due to a shortage of materials.
“Once we get the materials required, arrangements will be made to dedicate part of the staff to clear the backlog while some work on new applications. All things being equal we have the capacity to clear the backlog within 100 working days,” Mr Masango said.
He said the Government at the moment is incapacitated to make a once-off purchase of the required material.
“However, the payment that has been made currently has served as an unlocking mechanism of supply and deliveries will be ongoing,” Mr Masango said.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Cain Mathema has said Government was committed to meeting its obligations to ensure that the public accesses travel documents with Treasury having bought new machines to print the travel documents at a cost of nearly US$600 000.—@mashnets