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Internal Affairs Ministry Defies MPs On ‘Expensive’ E-Passports Issuance

Members of Parliament are irked by Ministry of Internal Affairs on issuing Electronic passports to Ugandans despite demands from lawmakers to have the matter clarified before it comes into effect.

Consequently, Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga on Thursday gave the ministry up to Tuesday next week to come and explain why the Immigrations Department has defied Parliament.

 This was after Kampala Central MP, Muhammad Nsereko raised concerns over the Ministry’s disregard of Parliament’s request to have the legal matters behind the electronic passports explained to the August House.

 “As we speak, new charges have been levied unto people. People through their representatives have a right to be heard on how effective policy should be passed by this Government. We had asked them to explain why the cost is at that, whether people in Diaspora are catered for. There are people stuck in Diaspora because their passports expired ….” Nsereko said.

Kadaga then asked the Attorney General, William Byaruhanga to explain why his office and that of Internal Affairs haven’t presented a statement to address the concerns raised, despite being ordered to have the matter harmonized by the two offices.

The Attorney General replied saying that his office had a meeting with the Minister of Internal Affairs and the two harmonized their position.

“You did ask about legal implication and we advised on that,” Byaruhanga said.

It was then that the Speaker ordered the Minister of Internal Affairs to come to the House and inform the nation saying the matter is of much importance as it touches on the right of movement for Ugandans.

It should be recalled that on 4th December 2018, Obiga Kania, State Minister Internal Affairs presented to Parliament a statement explaining why Government had increased the prices of passports saying the changes were in response to decisions agreed upon on the 17th Ordinary Summit of the East African Community Heads of State held in March 2016, that saw the launch the new EAC e-Passport.

The member states agreed to have the commencement of the issuance of the New international EAC e-Passport take effect by 1st January 2019, and thereafter implement a phase out program for the current machine Readable East African and National Passports, in a period of two years.

Obiga told Parliament that more than 150 countries had migrated to E-Passports which he said are more superior to the Machine Readable Passports (IVRP) and have a microprocessor which stores a digital version of the photo as well as identification data normally on the bio data page of the paper passport hence making it dramatically harder to forge.

The project will be implemented in two phases for the current EAC and National Machine-readable passports scheduled to run from January and end in January 3rd 2021, after which all Uganda citizens shall only be eligible to travel with the new international EAC e-Passport.

The shift to electronic passports came with changes in price with Obiga saying the change in price is premised on a Cost Recovery model to recoup the Cost of Production, but also to include a profit margin in form of Non Tax Revenue (NTR) which is paid to the Consolidated Fund.

As per new policy, the Ordinary Passport of 48 Pages will cost Shs250,000, Ordinary Passport 64 Pages Shs300,000, Official/Service Passport 64 Pages Shs400,000 and the 64paged Diplomatic Passport are set to cost Shs500,000.

Those in urgent need of passports will have to part with Shs150,000 as Passport Express Services and Courier fee for Diaspora Passport applications will cost Shs300,000 while the Diaspora Ordinary Passport of 64 Pages is Shs350,000.

However, the MPs rejected the Minister’s statement prompting the Speaker to order the Minister to return with a harmonized statement that would address all concerns raised by the MPs, but the Ministry failed to fulfill the conditions.

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