Government yesterday said production of passports is expected to improve within a month as Treasury has bought new machinery to print the travel documents at a cost of nearly US$600 000. In a Press briefing in Hwange yesterday, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Cain Mathema said the Government was committed to meeting its obligations to ensure the public accesses travel documents.
"I want to take this opportunity to advise that my ministry is currently facing an increasing backlog of passport applications dating back to July 2018. This has been occasioned mainly by the unavailability of foreign currency to procure the needed consumables including the passport paper," said the minister.
"Also due to the passage of time, some of the passport production machinery has been in use for some time and there is now need to replace them. The challenges which are currently being faced by the Central Registry relate to our indebtedness to the suppliers of consumables as opposed to incapacity to produce the same and meet demand of the vital documents."
He said Government has made various interventions to ensure that passport production improves, adding that in a month there will be a marked change.
"But what we can promise is that within the next four to five weeks we'll be able to produce not less than 3 000 passports a day.
"We have the money, the President had to intervene. Our ultimate target is to produce at least 8 000 a day because of the machinery we are using and the one that is yet to come," said Minister Mathema.
The minister said his ministry and Treasury are working to address challenges that had stalled issuance of passports.
He said President Mnangagwa has been instrumental in ensuring challenges occurring in the procurement of necessary production equipment are addressed.
"Thus Treasury has already paid US$591 000 to procure three state of the art high capacity printers. Such a development would raise production from the current 3 000 passports a day to 8 000, which matches or equals the current daily production capacity, which translates to clearing the backlog at a rate of approximately 160 000 a month when commissioned," he said.
"Treasury has further taken upon itself to allocate resources to retire the outstanding debt whilst at the same time addressing the issues of consumables. To this end, a payment plan has been formally been agreed with the supplier of the consumables with the initial payments having been made on the 28th of June 2019. An order has been placed and we are awaiting delivery."
He said the Registry department is committed to decentralising its offices for the betterment of society and is working on construction district offices in Insiza, Matabeleland South among other areas across the country.
Minister Mathema said in the spirit of devolution, Government will continue to cascade its offices to grassroots levels as the public should not struggle to access services.
Registrar General Mr Clemence Masango and Matabeleland North registrar Mr Willard Sayenda attended the briefing.
Cde Mathema's visit to Hwange Registry Office is part of his determination to ensure that public officials render effective services to the public as well as listen to their challenges as they execute their duties.