Ms Jennifer Namusisi, a resident of Kyengera in Wakiso District, applied for a passport to travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a domestic worker on January 2. On January 30, she was at the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control to receive her passport.
“I applied for a passport together with 15 other people on January 2, my colleagues got their passports on January 7. I never got mine because the officers wanted to speak to my father,” Ms Namusisi said after signing for her East African passport.
Ms Sarah Apako, a former student of Social Sciences at Makerere University, applied for a passport in mid-January and received it two weeks later.
Before the government introduced online application, Ugandans endured delays and others lost money to conmen and dealers who had turned Internal Affairs ministry premises into a hunting ground.
On December 9, last year, government introduced the online passport application system. The system schedules passport applicants between 8am and 10am, 10 am and 1pm and the last session runs from 1pm to 4pm.
“We are happy more people are embracing the online passport application system. Under this system, the directorate can issue between 1,000 and 1,200 passports every day,” the director of citizenship and immigration control, Maj Gen Apollo Kasiita – Gowa, said of the new system two weeks ago.
“There is no reason why members of the public should pay brokers, agents or pay anything under the table to officers to get a passport. If it is about emergency, I can issue a passport within one hour,” Maj Gen Kasiita – Gowa added.
The deputy passport control officer, Mr Simon Mundeyi, took the Daily Monitor on a guided tour of the new spacious facility where applicants on appointment sit while waiting for interviews.
“When someone says we have a backlog of 50,000 applicants, I do not understand. As you can see, officers are seated without work,” Mr Mundeyi said, pointing at Immigration officers seated inside booths.
“Instead of resorting to blackmail, labour export companies should book appointments and adhere to them,” Mr Mundeyi emphasised while reacting to claims by some external labour recruitment companies that the directorate was frustrating external labour.
He urged labour companies with emergency cases to pay and book as express cases. Express cases need no appointments for interview and their passports are ready in one or two days. Others applications take two to three working days to process.
“Right now, applicants can even pay via mobile money,” Mr Mundeyi said of the new system.
Sources within some external labour recruitment companies have accused the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control and the Interpol of inefficiency and frustrating their efforts to find employment for the large army of unemployed youth.
According to some companies, their systems are clogged with a backlog of more than 50,000 new applicants. “It takes Interpol seven weeks to process a file as compared to two weeks by their Kenyan counterparts,” a source told the Daily Monitor recently.
The director of Interpol, AIGP Moses Balimwoyo, told Daily Monitor recently and that labour export companies were trying to fight the Automated Finger Printing System (AFIS) that has eliminated middlemen.
The AFIS system is being used to capture fingerprints which are then transmitted to the Directorate of Forensics at Naguru for analysis and back.
He said the only problem was barring forensic officers from going to labour exporting companies to take fingerprints. He said the work method was causing losses to government.
Mr Balimwoyo vowed not to bow to pressure from some labour external labour recruitment companies seeking to beat the Interpol verification system.
He advised the companies that need special consideration to seek appointments so that they are handled at once.
He said the directorate was investigating some external labour export companies for charging between Shs150,000 and Shs300,000 instead of Shs79,000 for certificates of good conduct.
The turnaround at Interpol is seven days for nationals and 14 days for foreigners after consulting their home governments.
Currently, Interpol issues between 250 and 400 certificates of good conduct every day.
Before the new system. Before the introduction of the online passport application system, applicants used to pick forms from the Internal Affairs ministry, fill them and have them endorsed by the LC I, LC II, the GISO and RDC. On submitting the forms, officers would ask them to check in three weeks, a process that would go on endlessly.
Applicants would Shs150,000 for normal processing and Shs300,000 for express. However, with the introduction of the online system,
applicants pay Shs250,000 for normal processing or Shs400,000 for express.