By HOMELAND MEDIA TEAM
The Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs is concerned about the high costs incurred by the government to print passports.
The legislators raised these concerns while meeting officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs who were on Wednesday, 29 March 2023 defending an Shs46.7 billion supplementary request by the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control to purchase more passport booklets.
“The unit cost of producing passport booklets is too high. When are we starting to produce our own booklets so that we stop overcharging Ugandans?” Hon. Bashir Lubega (NRM, Mubende Municipality) said.
As an alternative, MPs demanded that government speeds up the construction of the security printing factory in Entebbe that will print all security documents including passports.
According to Maj. Gen. Apollo Kasiita-Gowa, Director of Citizenship and Immigration Control, the government spends €42 (about Shs171,000) to print each passport booklet.
He said the spike in demand for passports due to the high number of Ugandans seeking employment abroad and those renewing their old passports necessitated the need for a supplementary budget.
“We had only anticipated 260,000 passports per year but now the demand has come up to 600,000 passports per year and yet in the budget, only 240,000 passports were provided for,” he said.
In 2018, the government signed an agreement with Veridos Identity Solutions Group, a German firm to start printing its own security documents including bank notes, passports, identity cards, and driving permits among others.
Construction works that were expected to be complete in two years only commenced in May 2022.
Kasiita-Gowa blamed the delays majorly on the Covid-19 pandemic that harmed the revenue collection from the issuance of passports, National Identity Cards and driving permits, which resultantly slowed the financing of the project.
He is, however, upbeat that upon completion, the factory will lower the cost of printing passports and other security documents.
“Negotiations have been ongoing and the money has been processed. We believe they now have enough money to continue with the construction and indeed the works are on course,” Kasiita-Gowa said.
Butiru County Member of Parliament, Hon. Godfrey Wakooli cautioned the Ministry of Internal Affairs to ensure that the project does not turn into another “white elephant” and yet it is intended to reduce financial hemorrhage resulting from costly printing of government documents by foreign firms.
The Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Rosemary Nyakikongoro said that the committee would this week visit the site in Entebbe to get firsthand information about the progress of works.
“We shall be visiting that place this week and also intend to do some more investigation as a committee, especially on issues regarding the financing of the project,” Nyakikongoro said.
Parliament of Uganda