Govt promises quicker, easier passports

Passport application.
The passport application process can be quite painful.

Getting a passport can be a nightmare. Not for much longer, if the Ministry of Internal Affairs is to be believed.

According to Internal Affairs permanent secretary, Benon Mutambi, plans are underway to allow online passport applications and the use of data from the National Identification and Registration Authority to process the travel document.

The move, expected to be in place by June this year, would make acquiring a passport a faster, less painful, process.

“We are working on a platform where somebody can submit their application online, for those who may not want to come and line up at Internal Affairs and are [computer] literate…. This will help improve service delivery,” Mutambi told the Parliament committee on Defence and Internal Affairs in Kampala today.

He promised that once Internal Affairs starts using Nira data, Ugandans will no longer need to collect a number of signatures from different authorities in support of their passport applications, as is currently the case.

Typically, a passport applicant requires the recommendation of different Local Council officials in addition to that of the resident district commissioner.

Butambala MP, Muwanga Kivumbi, complained that the current, lengthy, process breeds con men who act as middlemen between passport applicants and Immigration officials.

Mutambi concurred with Kivumbi, saying that the Immigration department currently uses rudimentary measures in efforts to get rid of middlemen, like reshuffling security offices after every six months.

“The only lasting solution would be the operationalisation of the automation system. Nira needed to put in place an interface which could connect with third party institutions and the good news is that its establishment has now been completed,” Mutambi said.

He said that Immigration is already working on its side of the system, to be able to link up with the Nira database, which will be operational by June this year.

“The public [will] no longer need to go looking for LCs' and several other letters. Someone will only need to fill in the application form and attach a copy of the national ID... The rest, we shall be using the data already captured by Nira.” Nira is responsible for registration of citizens and issuance of national identity cards.

Mutambi oted, however, that some of the activities needed for the automation of immigration services are not yet funded.

“Though we think this is so critical, activities leading to automation are part of the unfunded priorities. We are therefore calling on MPs to help in allocation of resources to support this process,” he said.


© 2016 Observer Media Ltd