THE cost of getting a new passport could soon hit the roof by over 1 700% if government bows to the Registrar-General Office’s demands for the cost to be at par with the prevailing United States dollar interbank rate.

Currently, the registry is struggling to keep up with demand.

Speaking during a tour of the Central Registry by Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe yesterday, Registrar-General Clemence Masango said his department was talking to government to increase fees for ordinary passports to the equivalent of US$53 on the interbank rate, which could see application fees for an ordinary passport costing $901.

“US$53 is what was approved and that is what can easily enable us to provide a service, bearing in mind that not every applicant paid US$53. We have seen people who require their passport in three days and they paid US$253 at that time; and those who want it within 24 hours US$318. So these two will help meet us halfway and achieve a win-win with those paying US$53. So if we are to get a review, we must get a review of not less than US$53 equivalent at the prevailing bank rate,” he said.

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At the prevailing bank rate of around US$1 to $17, an ordinary passport will cost $901, while a three-day passport will cost $4 301 and an emergency 24-hour passport will ask for $5 406.

According to Masango, even these fees will not allow government to recover all costs related to production of passports.

“The costing excise was done in 2010. At that time, we had fully dollarised and it was done on the basis of US dollars. The $53, is what Cabinet approved as the minimum to be charged to get a passport, but not necessarily the exact cost of producing the passport,” he said.

Kazembe, who was appointed Home Affairs minister recently, faces a mammoth task to ensure quality and effective service delivery at the passports office that is only printing 2 000 passports a day against a daily demand of 1 800 passports and a backlog of close to 300 000.

He told the media that he hoped to address the crisis, end corruption in the department and ensure that there is respectable service delivery.

“I am glad to say that the RG’s Office has been working on this. I am sure you understand that at some point, we were producing 60 passports per day, which was a record low and I am glad now they are now producing

2 000 passports, which should come as a relief to our people,” he said.

“Yes, it’s not good enough, but given the challenges that we are facing, that of consumables and the issue of foreign currency, there are competing demands because the resources are not that much. We need fuel, we need electricity, issues that are beyond our control.”