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Sanitise passport office

IN HIS continued ambush of government and quasi-government institutions, Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo on Wednesday made an impromptu visit to the Passport and Citizenship Office to check on its operations.
Like many other government institutions, Mr Lusambo was not happy with the state of affairs there.
The minister was particularly not amused to find dozens of people who went to seek various services as early as 07:30 hours not attended to by 11:00 hours.
He was compelled to take the chief passport and citizenship officer, Brenda Banda, to task on why the offices were flooded with many unattended-to clients.
“What are all these people doing here? This place is too congested and unhealthy. We appreciate the work that you are doing but you need to come up with a system that will bring sanity to this place,” the minister said.
Mr Lusambo said the provincial administration has been receiving numerous complaints of how people are made to wait for many hours before being attended to at the Passport and Citizenship Office.
This is an important office charged with the responsibility of processing and issuing passports and other related travel documents as well as applications for citizenship.
The mandate of the Passport and Citizenship Office is to efficiently and effectively provide digitised national registration cards and passports, increase accessibility to services for issuance of all national identities and travel documents and facilitate acquisition of Zambian citizenship in order to contribute to maintenance of internal security.
However, it is sad that this department seems not to be performing according to its mandate and the expectations of most Zambian citizens.
It is not a secret that the Passport and Citizenship Office continues to be one of the most inefficient government service providers.
As rightly observed by Mr Lusambo, the office is always flooded like a marketplace.
If it takes unnecessarily long for people to be attended to, this provides a conducive environment for corruption to thrive.
In such instances it is easy for public officers to ask for bribes with a promise of quick service delivery.
On the other hand, out of frustration and probably impatience, those seeking services may not resist the temptation to offer a bribe to access the desired services much quicker.
This unfortunately distorts service delivery and negatively affects the development process.
It means that only depraved individuals ready to engage in corruption will benefit from service delivery at the expense of innocent citizens.
While it is understood that there is need for the passport office to critically scrutinise all applicants to ensure that passports are given to the right people, there is need to balance it with efficiency.
It should be understood that keeping people for long hours just to access a service is counter-productive.
People need to be served in the shortest possible time to allow them to attend to other issues of importance.
Take for instance an employee who gets permission to get a passport. The longer they are kept away from work the more the company loses out on productivity.
Or a business owner who closes his or her shop to access services at the Passport and Citizenship Office. The longer they stay away, the more they lose out on sales.
The level of productivity at individual level is what cumulatively translates into national output.
It is therefore in national interest for the Passport and Citizenship Office to ensure high levels of efficiency.
Needless to say, in this day and age of technological advancements, it is expected that efficiency will be enhanced in service delivery.
The Passport and Citizenship Office will do well to learn from other public institutions like the Road Transport and Safety Agency who have gone a step ahead in as far as efficient service delivery is concerned.
Getting a driver’s licence today has been simplified and can be done within an hour.
This has made the environment hostile to corruption and rendered middlemen or agents irrelevant.
This is the route the Passports and Citizenship Office also needs to take. It is achievable.
Perhaps the starting point is to set a good work culture of reporting early for work, courtesy and sacrifice.