Saturday, 15 February 2020

PASSPORT FEES TOO LOW : RG


Low fees for passports and other related documents at central registry have hampered efficient service delivery, as the department is now overwhelmed by the huge demand from applicants, legislators have heard.

Passport fees were last pegged in 2009 and were denominated by the United States dollars.

They have remained at the same level despite the fact that they are charged in Zimbabwean dollar.

This came out on Thursday during a tour of the Passport Office by Parliament’s portfolio committee on defence and Home Affairs chaired by Umzingwane MP Cde Levi Mayihlope (Zanu PF). 

Responding to the legislators and journalists on the viability of the fees, Registrar-General, Mr Clement Masango, said they needed review.

Although Mr Masango could not be drawn into divulging the department’s proposed figures, an ordinary passport which cost $53 at the moment, could be costing more than $1 000 using the interbank rate given that the figure was initially pegged in United States dollars.

Zimbabwe’s passports remained the cheapest in the region.

South Africa is the next cheapest at R400, while Botswana charges P1 260. Zambia’s passport goes for US$100 and in DRC it’s at a whopping US$185. 

British passports are £72,50 (US$91), while the US charges US$110 for the first passport a person receives, since there are a lot of checks, but considerably less for subsequent passports.

A birth certificate replacement which cost $2 would have cost around $40 using the interbank rate which is pegged around 1:18.

The huge demand for passports on the back of low fees have seen the prevalence of touts, and allegations of corruption being levelled against staff at civil the registry.

Mr Masango said his department had made representations to relevant authorities and the matter was being considered.

“That matter is before the authorities,” he said.

“We are just implementing agencies. As soon as they come up with a position we will be informed just like anybody else. Remember the current fees were in US dollar and were set in 2009. 

“If we were to make sense, we all know that with respect to passports, we import material and how much is $53? It is less than US$3.”

Mr Masango said charging viable fees would result in the rapid processing of applications since materials used to make the passports are all imported and expensive.

He said in seeking a review, the department was not keen to make profit from the passports, but ensure they remain accessible.

While an ordinary passport costs $53, an emergency passport costs $253.

Cabinet has since authorised the civil Registry Department to charge US$318 for passports in respect of those in the Diaspora to ensure that they were not deported from their work stations owing to failure to have valid documents.

During the tour, it also emerged that the central registry’s office was stuck with some expired passports after applicants failed to collect them despite huge demand for the travelling documents.

The expired passports, some of which would have been applied on an urgent basis, were now set for destruction.

Besides expired passports, there are some stuck at the central registry for long periods without being collected. 

Mr Masango said his department was now applying to relevant authorities to have them destroyed.

“We have a computerised system which informs an applicant that his or her passport is ready for collection once it has been printed,” he said.

“While some have responded by coming to collect, others have not collected them. “This applies to some applications that would have been made on an urgent basis.”

Legislators said one of the reasons for some applicants failing to collect passports was that they would have skipped the country looking for greener pastures, while others might have died.

“We cannot account for those who might have gone out of the country through undesignated exit points, but we can account for those who might have died,” said Mr Masango. Herald

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