Harare (New Ziana) – The government is considering an upward review of passport prices to levels that will enable the Registrar General’s Department to raise foreign currency required to procure production materials, a Cabinet Minister has said.
It currently costs ZWL$53 to get an ordinary passport, which under normal circumstances takes at least three months to process, ZWL$253 for one that comes out after three days and ZWL$380 for one which comes out in 24 hours.
However, since mid last year, a massive backlog of over 300 000 passports has piled up mainly because of failure by the Registrar General’s Department to secure adequate foreign currency to import consumables.
Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe said continued production at current prices was no longer viable.
“If you remember they have been charging ZWL$53 for a non urgent passport for a very long time and this price was set at the time when the exchange rate (between the USD and the bond currency) was 1:1.
“The consumables are imported and they require foreign currency which is dependent on the exchange rate and the exchange rate has moved from 1:1 to about 1:15 on the official market and the ZWL$53 is still unchanged so we are basically producing for nothing,” he said after a tour of the Harare Passport Office.
“They just want to cover their costs so that they can continue to produce the passports so I think it is in order that we need to review. We need to look at the price, obviously basing on the change in the exchange rate. We need to strike a balance at the end of the day so we are working on that.”
Kazembe said passport production was gradually increasing and was now at 2 000 per day and commended the RGs office for doing its best under difficult circumstances.
“At some point we were producing 60 passports per day which was a record low, and I am glad now that they are producing 2 000 passports a day which should come as a relief to our people. But of course it is not good enough but given the challenges that we are facing it is commendable,” he said.
“The capacity is 4 600 per day which would be desirable if we could double that.”
Registrar General Clement Masango said the anticipated upward review would assist in covering costs of importing consumables.
“This is a public service. Government is not in the business of 100 percent cost recovery or profit making, (but) if we are to get a review, we must get a review of not less than US$53 equivalent at the prevailing bank rate,” he said.
With high demand for travel documents, officials at the central registry have been accused of making a killing, demanding bribes of up to US$200 to urgently process passports for those in need.
The RGs department receives around 1 500 new passport applications per day.
“Corruption needs to be dealt with. I understand the frustrations (of the people). We have queues and we have to deal with the backlog,” Kazembe said.