Malawi: Exit Technobrain Enter E-Tech Systems As New Passport System Supplier to Malawi

15 April 2024

The days of TechnoBrain have finally come to an end. Welcome on-board E-Tech Systems--a local information and communications technology (ICT) firm--which Malawi government has engaged as the new passport system supplier to address the passport crisis at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson Frank Namangale in a written response on Sunday confirmed that E-Tech Systems, a Lilongwe-based firm, will take over from TechnoBrain.

He said: "Government engaged a local supplier, E-Tech Systems, to deal with the challenges at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services after the system at the department was hacked."

E-Tech Systems managing director Raphael Msowoya on Sunday confirmed that they have been engaged, but refused to give more details.

"Contact the Immigration Department as we are not allowed to speak on the matter," he said.

Malawi has experienced passport issuance challenges ever since Attorney General (AG) Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda in December 2021 cancelled a $60.8 million (about K103.3 billion) TechnoBrain contract due to alleged poor handling of the contract by the former governing Democratic Progressive Party administration. TechnoBrain signed the contract in March 2019.

But who is this E-Tech solutions company?

According to their LinkedIn profile, E-Tech solutions was established in 2010 to provide ICT solutions such as software installation upgrades, desktop and web-based software development, website development and hosting, computer hardware installation and servicing, antivirus software, Internet security systems setup and network systems management, including installation of wireless networks, point to point networks and virtual private networks.

Reads the profile in part: "Moreover, our functional and technical experience extends to interfacing with third-party conveyors and various consultants.

"We are a registered ICT business that provides consulting services, managing the implementation of high level networks, managing the implementation of database management systems in the home and office industry."

In 2021, the AG said the $60 million contract with TechnoBrain was not supposed to be signed in the first place because there were several things that were wrong. He said the contract was fraught with irregularities and he wondered how controlling officers went ahead to sign it.

But in 2023, government re-engaged Techno Brain on a temporary basis as it sought to find a replacement.

However, in February this year the Immigration Department suspended issuance of the passports due to a system failure.

President Lazarus Chakwera later announced in Parliament that the passport system was hacked and that the purported "digital mercenaries" were demanding ransom from the government.

He directed the department to find alternatives to resume passport printing within three weeks.

In the wake of the mess that has resulted in suspension of passport printing and processing, some quarters accused Techno Brain of having a hand in the purported hacking.

However, in an earlier statement Techno Brain representative Nandan Gopalakrishna said the company empathised with Malawi and swiftly responded to an urgent request for assistance to resolve the issue in January 2024.

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