‘USD passport fees a contractual issue’

Bulawayo Bureau

THE Government has said it will continue to charge passport fees in foreign currency despite the introduction of a new currency because of a contractual obligation with the company that helped to establish the electronic passport system.

The new e-passport was introduced in December 2021 with prices in US dollars, with an ordinary passport costing US$150 and an emergency one fetching US$250.

Lithuanian company, Garsu Pasaulis, partnered with the Government to introduce the e-passport.

The project has helped to address the historic backlog issue in issuing passports and brought increased efficiency.

Zimbabwe introduced an e-passport in December 2021 after partnering with Garsu Pasaulis under a build, own, operate and transfer basis.

This resulted in passport fees being pegged in foreign currency with an ordinary passport costing US$150, while an emergency one fetches US$250.

The intervention has brought efficiency in the issuance of travel documents and has tackled historic backlog issues.

Following the introduction of ZiG by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe last month, members of the public have been asking why there is still a need to pay for passports in foreign currency.

Senator Meliwe Phuti asked Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Deputy Minister, David Kuda Mnangagwa, in Parliament why the new currency cannot be used to pay for passports, among other services.

In response, Deputy Minister Mnangagwa said the Government was working towards ensuring that the local currency pays for all goods and services, but clarified that the passport issue was unique as the investor has to recoup its investment.

“I believe that social contract and the mechanics around it are being discussed. It is a sensitive area that we don’t want to rush or expediently go to without having spoken to all the stakeholders,” he said.

“Similar to some of the PPP arrangements that are there, I think the Government holds the sanctity of contract sacrosanct. So, you would find that there were cases where you would spend days at the passport office.

“An investor came in, and part of those arrangements included foreign currency pricing. These are stamped-in documents that need to be reviewed by the relevant ministries. The relevant authorities and stakeholders are looking at how we can possibly have all these areas within the ZiG domain.”

The Government partnered Garsu Pasaulis and the partnership includes producing new passports that meet modern international standards that will allow Zimbabweans to travel without additional complications.

The partnership has seen the company refurbishing provincial and district registry offices while providing material to produce national identity cards.

Zimbabwe also started issuing passport services in South Africa as it moves to bring convenience to travel document seekers.

Before the Government engaged Garsu Pasaulis, the country was experiencing serious challenges in providing travel documents, with the passport backlog clocking 200 000.

 

 

 

 

 

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