The Ministry of Internal Affairs has scaled down the production of passports to enable them to upgrade their system. Addressing journalists at the Internal Affairs Ministry offices in Kampala, the Spokesperson, Simon Peter Mundeyi refuted rumours that they have run out of passport booklets, which has affected production.
Mundeyi says that after lock-down, they had over one million applications that needed processing and printing. He says that due to the mass production, the systems kept breaking down because they were overworked and hence the decision to upgrade their system to enable them to print more passports faster when the need arises.
Mundeyi says that they are also integrating an automatic fingerprint system, which will help the ministry avoid instances where one person gets more than one passport. He says the upgrade process that started more than a week ago shall last for more than three weeks until the end of May before the passport office resumes normal operations.
The passport office has three machines each with the capacity to produce 1000 passports daily. However, only two machines were active at the time Uganda Radio Network visited the printing station.
The other machine was undergoing an upgrade. Mundeyi says that on a daily basis, they print over 3000 passports processed from the head office in Kampala, regional offices in Mbale, Mbarara and Gulu and mission offices in Washington USA and London in the United Kingdom. They are now producing about 1800 passports since they are operating at 60 percent capacity.
For one to get a passport, they have to apply online and get a code, which they use to pay for the passport before they are allowed to proceed to the next step on the passport application portal to get an appointment to go for interviews.
After interviews, one has to wait for information from the ministry inviting him or her to pick up their passport. With this system upgrade, an express passport which could be ready in two days from the time of interviews shall now take more time.
Ronnie Mukundane, the Spokesperson of the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA), says that they have experienced delays in the processing of passports for people travelling abroad for work.
Last week, when the Ministry announced the shutdown of the passport enrollment centre, Mukundane says they were forced to reschedule appointments. Mukundane says many of their people now apply for an express passport because there is less traffic compared to ordinary passports.
The Ministry spokesperson, Mudenyi also explained that they are giving a chance to people with emergencies. So, the sick travelling for treatment abroad, students who also have to urgently travel back to school abroad can be helped to get their express passports faster for as long as they have proof of urgency.
However, speaking to URN recently, Ronnie Mukundane, the Spokesperson of the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) said that the Ministry should seek alternative means to deliver information o people whose passports are ready for picking up since several don’t get the reminder messages from the Ministry for instance by announcing the names in newspapers.
Asked about alternative methods the Ministry can use to deliver messages to the people, Mudenyi revealed that they are compiling the list of names of people who haven’t picked up their passports and that moving forward, they shall publish them in newspapers as one of the ways to let owners aware that their passports are ready.
Mundeyi further explained why there were long queues at the ministry for people seeking passports. He says, at first when Uganda had just fully opened following a national wide lockdown, they had a backlog of applications that they had to clear and that’s why even applications for express passports took close to two weeks to be processed.
At one point, he says, 138 out of 158 labour export companies had each applied for more than 100 Ugandans to get express passports. In December 2018, the Ministry through its Directorate of Immigration and Citizen Control started issuing e-passports to replace the old machine-readable ones. So far, there are more.