By Ralph Sesay
The establishment of service charters in most government institutions and organizations was a laudable initiative meant at reducing corruption and also provide increasing awareness on the part of members of the public who visit these institutions to seek for services.
The Immigration Department under the Ministry of Internal Affairs is in a very chaotic state not reflective of the New Direction.
The Organization under a young and dynamic Chief Immigration Officer stinks with corruption.
The older folks at the institution have not been able to understand that this is a new Direction and they should at once change their old and corrupt tricks.
Citizens who turn out for passports are treated with levity and extorted.
To acquire a passport is very expensive even at the Government price of Le 750,000.
Visiting the Immigration Department reveals that the institution is a farm from which all officials are scavenging for their living through corrupt means.
Poor citizens who visit the department to apply for ordinary passports would have to wait for over two weeks to get one, while the rich and influential would spend between 24 to 48 hours to get one after paying between one and one million five hundred thousand Leones each.
Nobody seems to be in charge, even with the presence of CCTV cameras, monies change hands at will between desperate citizens who want passports and staff of the Immigration Department.
Even members of the clerical staff or ‘Houseboy’ receive monies from citizens for the processing of passports on behalf of their masters.
It is not a secret that passports cannot be obtained at the declared government cost of Le 750,000.
This state of affairs is supported by the lack of a Service Charter at the Immigration Department.
The leadership at the Department should try to be in charge especially so when the demand for passports is very much alarming.
We should try and have systems at the Department. Passports are distributed even after working hours.
Why is it that people have to wait for two weeks for them to get their passports while others will come for a day or two and receive theirs, and the benefits go into the pockets of these individuals.
I came to realize that the issue of Emergency Passports is not actually visible and beneficial to the state but to the pockets of individuals.
The CIO should come out clearly to inform the public whether the department has a system for Emergency Passports and at what cost.
This is to discourage individual staff members from pocketing sums or monies that should go to the state in the name of emergency passports.
This chaotic scene for passports at the Immigration Department is happening right at the nose of the Minister of Internal Affairs and his Deputy.
They are witnesses to the fact that things are not going on as expected at the Immigration Department.
What is shameful is the fact that even the scanning machine that vets visitors bags and other luggage at the reception of the Ministry is not working.
This is very risky for the establishment which houses the Homeland Security of the state.
How can a Ministry that is supposed to provide internal security for the country cannot adequately secure itself from intruders?
The Police deployed at the Immigration office are busy looking for passport customers rather than providing the required security for the building and Government officials.
It is high time that order is restored at the Immigration and Internal Affairs building for God sake.
The officials working in that building should be able to operate under a New Direction environment.
If need be let’s have a complete over haul of the staff working at the Immigration like it has occurred in other Ministries. It is difficult to have a new order with the same old staff.
The saying that ‘’you cannot teach an old dog new tricks comes into play here.
This medium would continue to look at the state of affairs at the Immigration Department.
We are keen to see a change in the New Direction. We should be able to see almost immediately the provision of a Service Charter at the Department to raise the awareness of people on the cost of the various services offered at the Immigration Department and what citizens are expected to pay for such services including how many days will the provision of such services last for.
At the same time, we are calling on the Anti Corruption Systems and Processing Unit to look at the Department with a view to correct their systems and processes.
Efforts should be geared towards reducing the interface between citizens who go to acquire passports and corrupt officials of the department.
The ACC should also be able to look at the possibility of having a sting operation to expose corrupt officials who are bent on extorting poor citizens.
To be continued.
By Ralph Sesay