The Registrar General office has a passport backlog of close to 170 000 due to foreign currency shortages, with over 2000 applications processed daily.
Zimbabwe sources materials for both passports and identity cards outside the country, with suppliers needing payment in foreign currency, a situation that has forced the Registrar General office to scale down on passport production.
Addressing the media at the Provincial Registry office in Bulawayo Wednesday, recently appointed registrar general, Clement Masango, revealed the department had backlog of 166 500 outstanding passports since May 2018.
In addition to the backlog, the registry receives 2 100 passport applications daily.
“The area of passport and ID cards most of our consumable are sourced from outside the country that’s where our suppliers are and we have to pay in foreign currency, this is the main reason why we are not able to make passports available within the four weeks we promised in terms of our client service charter.
“We are running on very low levels of consumables that is the passport paper, the ink, the films, ribbons and threads we are queuing for foreign currency like everyone else through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe,” he noted.
Masango said although it was constrained, the department had come up with an implementation programme to clear the backlog.
“I know they (RBZ) are doing their best but of course we are not able to serve clients to the best that we should be doing so arrangements are underway to have those resources. Then we have as result have as a department an implementation programme to clear the backlog on passport 166 500 applications dating back to May 2018
“We have produced and cleared up to April 2018. On a daily basis we receive 2 100 applications and these go onto to add to the existing backlog but on a daily basis our production capacity is on average 3 000,” the registrar general said.
Director of Information Technology in the registry, Henry Machiri, weighed in saying despite shortages the department was issuing 500 emergency passports daily.
Masango, who had been touring Bulawayo offices, said the main challenges he had witnessed was shortage of operating space for all sub offices.
The registrar’s department relies on the benevolence of the Bulawayo City Council, which allows it to put up offices in their district housing offices.
“Because of that the city council has been unable to give us the amount of space we want, which is why if you go to some offices, you find some districts with one or two offices where all the services are done,” he said.
This province needs more space to allow a sub office in Magwegwe and Cowdray Park where there is huge demand for registration services.
Masango said his department had put a request to council and local leadership to help the office secure accommodation in order to open more sub offices and start issuing birth and death registration papers.
Bulawayo has one district and the rest are sub-offices. The sub-offices issue National IDs and offer birth and death certificates.
Another challenge that has hit the registry department is shortage of personnel.
“We appreciate all government departments are affected by staffing levels, which are below 50 percent at most of sub offices including this provincial office. We have not been spared from the ongoing freeze on recruitment across government service were any posts that become vacant for whatever reason, unless the Public Service Commission -the employer authorises or grants an exemption we have to prove extremely that is an essential post that cannot be done without,” Masango said.