Exposed: Ills and stress at State agency
Thousands of Kenyans will have to wait longer for their passports owing to a lack of booklets for printing, Immigration Director-General Alex Muteshi has said.
This is even as Immigration officials in missions abroad are experiencing non-payment of their dues for months by the National Treasury.
Muteshi, while appearing before the Senate’s National Security and Defence Committee chaired by William Cheptumo (Baringo), painted a grim picture of the department, saying it is collecting about Sh12 billion annually but has to beg the National Treasury for the release of funds to purchase new printers and pay its workers.
Muteshi further told the MPs that the current printers they are using are old and obsolete, with a capacity of only 1,500 passports per day. He said new machines could print at least 10,000 passports a day.
“Printing is a process. We have very old printers that can only print 1,500 passports per day. If we buy new machines, we will be able to reduce the backlog by printing 10,000 passports a day.”
Tel Aviv case
Muteshi told the committee that an officer in Tel Aviv, Israel, was on Tuesday hospitalised because of depression since his salary and other allowances are yet to be released by Treasury.
“I received a call from the Ambassador that the officer was taken to hospital because of depression. We have 41 officers working in 31 missions abroad. Some are on the verge of being thrown out of their houses,” said Muteshi.
He explained that since the Immigration department digitised its services, with all payments done online, officers in missions abroad have been having issues with payment.
While supporting the ongoing digitisation, Muteshi told the committee that the National Treasury should create avenues for releasing cash meant for public officers.
According to Muteshi, the Immigration department generates a lot of revenue but the Treasury does not reciprocate by releasing funds meant for it.
“The directorate generates additional revenue from the provision of consular services in missions abroad and from prosecution of immigration offences, collected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the law courts, respectively. But we are having our officers suffering from depression because the Treasury has not released their payments,” said Muteshi.
He disclosed that Immigration officials serving at various border patrol stations are not being paid at the same level as other civil servants, with their colleagues, especially from Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), being paid triple the amount, plus hefty house allowances.
“Our officials working at border patrol stations are not treated like those from other State agencies working at the border. An Immigration officer who gets a Sh20,000 house allowance in Nairobi, if transferred to Moyale, loses a lot and only gets Sh8,000; yet he must pay two sets of house rents,” said Pamela Otieno, Deputy Director in charge of Border patrol stations. According to them, a move to treat Immigration officials lower than others has demoralised them.
Plea to Treasury
Yesterday, Immigration officials appealed to the Senate committee to help push the National Treasury to release these funds for critical services.
The Immigration officials further told the lawmakers that while they had requested the National Treasury to allocate them Sh300 million, only half has been released to enable the department to digitise all its processes and services.
Muteshi said that visa issuance contributes significantly to the promotion of tourism and investment, and generates revenue of about Sh500 million per month through fees.
Projects the department is planning to undertake to include an Integrated Border Management Service, digitalisation, facial recognition, e-gates, Passenger Name Record and Advance Passenger Indexing.
Muteshi said that once the new Immigration Services Principal Secretary is sworn in, they will move with speed to enact the Migration Policy, adding that the draft law has already been prepared and is awaiting submission to Interior CS Kithure Kindiki.
It will help in national security and development, promotion of inter-agency and inter-State cooperation, migration management, wooing of investors and tackling of irregular migration, said Muteshi.