Why the Current Passport Gridlock Must Not Not Be Allowed to Persist

Last year on May 31st, Inte­ri­or Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Prof. Kithure Kindi­ki promised to clear the back­log of 42,000 pass­port appli­ca­tions with­in 21 days. He even pledged that pro­cess­ing time would be strict­ly 7 days for new appli­ca­tions. Because I hold Pro­fes­sor Kindi­ki in high regard as a good friend, a Chris­t­ian, and the son of a respect­ed Meru pas­tor who raised his chil­dren well—five of whom became professors—I was extreme­ly keen to check on why his promise was not fulfilled.

Accord­ing­ly, I am com­pelled to high­light the dire sit­u­a­tion based on reli­able infor­ma­tion regard­ing our pass­port issuance backlog. 

To the sur­prise of Kenyans, the pass­port back­log has soared to about 600,000 appli­ca­tions, far exceed­ing last year’s num­bers. Of course, the gov­ern­ment is report­ed­ly plan­ning to acquire a sys­tem capa­ble of print­ing 10,000 pass­ports dai­ly. How­ev­er, with a dai­ly influx of 3,000 appli­ca­tions, the net clear­ance rate will only be 7,000 pass­ports per day, mean­ing it would take approx­i­mate­ly 3 months to clear the exist­ing back­log under opti­mal con­di­tions. The cri­sis has esca­lat­ed to the point where tax pay­ing Kenyans are forced to queue at Nyayo House from as ear­ly as 3 am, as the cur­rent capac­i­ty of immi­gra­tion offi­cers is lim­it­ed to pro­cess­ing only 700 appli­ca­tions per day. the same offi­cers are only able to process some 6,000 appli­ca­tions a day. This sit­u­a­tion, com­pound­ed by the addi­tion­al dai­ly appli­ca­tions, has turned a gov­ern­ment office into a mar­ket­place and neces­si­tates imme­di­ate action from pol­i­cy­mak­ers to relieve the plight of count­less Kenyans await­ing their trav­el documents.

Undoubt­ed­ly, these chal­lenges stem from tran­si­tion­ing to new sys­tems and sup­pli­ers, as well as indi­vid­ual inefficiencies. 

In my own fair con­sid­er­a­tion, I sug­gest that the real issues are threefold, 

First, the immi­gra­tion depart­ment needs prop­er fund­ing as a top pri­or­i­ty. The trea­sury needs to pri­or­i­tize their requests to save the face of the gov­ern­ment, just like the immi­gra­tion depart­ment itself must con­sid­er their pri­or­i­ties in spend­ing their min­i­mal Appro­pri­a­tion An Aid (A in A) funds.

Sec­ond­ly, work­flow redesign is cru­cial. Coun­tries like Sin­ga­pore, South Korea, Ger­many, and Swe­den have effi­cient pass­port pro­cess­ing sys­tems where cit­i­zens apply online and, in some cas­es, com­plete bio­met­rics at local police sta­tions, receiv­ing pass­ports with­in a week. Giv­en our chal­lenges, espe­cial­ly with police sta­tion capac­i­ties, the Immi­gra­tion Depart­ment should con­sid­er estab­lish­ing well-dis­trib­uted out­posts for more effi­cient and pre­dictable services.

Third­ly, effi­cient man­age­ment of sup­pli­er ser­vices is essen­tial. The abrupt exit of the pre­vi­ous ven­dor, De La Rue, hints at polit­i­cal issues. The pro­cure­ment of a new sup­pli­er, capa­ble of pro­duc­ing 10,000 pass­ports dai­ly, must be expe­dit­ed with­out the inter­fer­ence of mid­dle­men, who often dis­rupt process­es for their own gain.

Pub­lic dis­cus­sions label­ing immi­gra­tion offi­cers as the most cor­rupt are unfound­ed. Junior offi­cers lack the capac­i­ty to stall such vast oper­a­tions. The prob­lem must lie deep­er. Just like man­age­ment guru Chris McCh­es­ney puts it, any­time you see a habit per­sist­ing in a major­i­ty of employ­ees a major­i­ty of the time, then the employ­ees are not the prob­lem. The sys­tem is! We’ve stig­ma­tised immi­gra­tion offi­cers to the point where they’re hes­i­tant to wear their uni­forms pub­licly, despite most being com­mit­ted to serv­ing Kenyans. They’ve proven capa­ble of issu­ing pass­ports in two days when resources are avail­able. The truth is, we’re deal­ing with a stressed sys­tem, stressed immi­gra­tion offi­cers, and stressed appli­cants, all of which are bur­den­ing the government.

Futher, the recent Gazette notice intro­duc­ing mea­sures to increase gov­ern­ment rev­enue has only wors­ened the sit­u­a­tion, lead­ing to legal chal­lenges. The pri­ma­ry role of the immi­gra­tion depart­ment should be to ensure our secu­ri­ty and facil­i­tate our trav­el  aspi­ra­tions, not rev­enue col­lec­tion. More­over, it iscon­cern­ing that only about 7 mil­lion Kenyans own pass­ports in today’s glob­al­ized economy.

Ulti­mate­ly, to achieve results it is cru­cial that the Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary, Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary, and Prin­ci­pal Immi­gra­tion Offi­cer align their efforts. Mean­while, Prof. Kindi­ki and his team could reduce over­crowd­ing at Nyayo House by strict­ly adher­ing to sched­uled appoint­ments, which would also help curb pan­ic and cor­rup­tion. Think green, act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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