Malawians have every reason to be excited following the announcement that prices of passports will go down following the termination of the $60.8 million (about K72 billion) electronic passports contract with Techno Brain Limited in 2021.
The termination of the contract has also enabled the Malawi Government to save $26 million (about K28 billion), which the Attorney General (AG) Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda said would be invested in other pressing development projects across the country.
Chakaka Nyirenda expressed his sentiments on Sunday. This, in effect, fulfills one of the promises the Tonse Alliance government, led by President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, made during the campaign ahead of the Fresh Presidential Election in June 2020.
President Chakwera and his partners promised that they would reduce the cost of acquiring a Malawian passport; a thing that did not materialize, a development the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services attributed to the high cost of importing materials such as booklets, among others.
But Chakaka Nyirenda said he now expects that the department will reduce the charges following the termination of the contract with Techno Brain Limited, which allegedly supplied its products at an exorbitant price.
“So, my expectation is that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services will be reducing the charges for passports. I am not so sure whether they can reduce it by K20,000 or whatever, but that is the expectation. We are saving $26 million [K28 billion] from that deal,” he said.
Nyirenda said the Malawi Government and Techno Brain Limited signed contract settlement agreement that will see the government paying about $22 million (about K23 billion) instead of $60.8 million (K72 billion) that Techno Brain Limited was requesting for the supply of electronic passports, printing equipment and passport books.
He said since the government is acquiring the electronic passports system, including passport books at a cheaper cost, it should reflect in the price that Malawians are accessing the passports.
“My expectation is these gains should be passed on to the members of the public,” said Nyirenda.
In his remarks, the Director General of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, General Charles Kalumo, said they are currently looking at the amount by which they can reduce the price on passports.
Kalumo added that the final decision will be made by relevant authorities.
“I am a mere civil servant. There are procedures that have to be followed on this matter. We will communicate if there is a change but I can’t tell when and how much it will cost,” he said.
Malawi terminated Techno Brain Limited passport contract with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services on December 7, 2021, owing to alleged poor handling of the contract.
Techno Brain Limited signed the contract in March 2019 during the then governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration.
The deal was for Techno Brain Global FZE of the United Arab Emirates to upgrade the country’s passport issuance system.
But the documentation at the time showed that Techno Brain Limited was sourcing the passport booklets from Vienna, Austria, where the average unit cost of each booklet was $9.13 (about K7, 221.83) and from Singapore where the cost was around $1.73 (about K1 368.43)
The supplier was then selling each booklet to the Malawi Government at $76 (about K60 166), including the supply of ink ribbons and 1 600 crystagrams, a series of holographic images required for the printing of e-passport booklets
Rough calculations show that Techno Brain Limited was making a profit of between $66.87 (about K52, 894.17) and $74.27(about K58, 708.02) per passport booklet supplied to Malawi.