FactCheck: Matiang’i knows it takes 15 days to process a passport. No, it does not - Daily Nation

FactCheck: Matiang’i knows it takes 15 days to process a passport. No, it does not


FactCheck: Matiang’i knows it takes 15 days to process a passport. No, it does not

The process, which has since gone digital, is long and erratic, and at times slower than in the days when it was manual

''It should take at least 15 working days to get your first passport once your form has been physically submitted at the immigration offices. For all other application types, it should take at least five working days,'' states the immigration application form that is available on eCitizen.

Just like most Kenyans who have applied for new or replacement passports this year, I recently found out that the statement could not be further from the truth.

My nerve-wracking experience started on August 13, when I went to the Immigration offices at Nyayo House in Nairobi to submit an application for the renewal of my passport that is to expire in March 2019. After queuing for about four hours, I got to the submission counter only to be turned away, despite having all the necessary documents including the online-filled application form.

Online or manual?

My mistake – I had assumed that since the payment for the passport was made online, the official processing my application would simply need to log in and see the transaction details. The official told me I did not include two copies of my payment receipt. I offered to show the receipt that was saved on my mobile phone but the person attending to me would hear nothing of it. ''You are holding up the queue!'' she barked at me.

It took Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to calm down the frustrated Kenyans. He also held a meeting with officials at the department and ordered them to temporarily relocate officers from other sections of the department so that they would issue all passports that were ready, even if it meant working late into the night, and it came to pass.

The next day, I submitted my application and on enquiring when I should return to check if it was ready I was told to wait for a fortnight. Since the immediate reason for which I had sought to renew my passport was a trip that was more than two months away, I took my time – three weeks – to make sure that I would find the passport ready upon my return.

On the day I returned, the collection queue was longer and slower than it was on the day I had submitted the form. The two people who were handling enquiries on the status of passports left the counter unattended during tea and lunch breaks, instead of doing so alternately, bringing the long queues to a standstill each time. Hours later, I was informed that my passport was still being processed and that I should check in another two weeks.

I was supposed to attend the Data Press Fellowship and the UN World Data Forum 2018, in Dubai, on October 20. The trip that once seemed far away was fast approaching, so I decided to make an appeal at one of the counters where applicants have an opportunity to make a case for their passport approval process to be expedited.

The official who listened to my appeal checked the status of my application on his computer and told me not to worry, and return to see him if the passport was not ready after the two weeks as earlier advised.

Two weeks on

The two weeks elapsed and I returned. My passport was still not ready, but this time round I was informed that it had been dispatched and that I should return after four days. I went back to the appeals office, where I got confirmation that it had indeed been dispatched, but I was told that since I still had ample time to apply for a visa, four days was not a long wait.

But I was hardly assured since on the queue that day were people who applied for their passports weeks earlier than me. Besides, I applied for my first passport and had renewed it twice back when the entire process was manual and on those occasions the process took days, not weeks.

It turned out that I had good reason to be discouraged because when I returned as advised, it was not ready. I was asked to return on October 10 (Moi Day) but I came back a day earlier. This time I went straight to the appeals office first where the officer in charge did not understand why I had not received my passport since the system showed that it had been ready for a while. Indeed, when I finally got my passport two months after I had applied, it showed that the date of issue was September 24, more than two weeks before it was released to me.

Many complaints

A perusal of the main daily papers yielded at least 10 complaints from readers who had experienced similar delays in 2018. It included a schoolteacher whose complaint was published in the Daily Nation on May 14 this year. She had waited for one and half months for a passport to travel overseas for urgent medical attention. When I followed up with her, she told me that the department acted immediately to give her the passport after her complaint was published.

Published on October 2 was a complaint from a Kitale resident who had travelled to Nairobi twice to pick up her passport and it was still not ready almost two months later.

Inevitably things came to a head on Tuesday, October 9. Some Kenyans who had arrived at Nyayo House as early as 6am to collect their passports were still waiting by 3pm for feedback, while others who had come in later were served before them. Some had skipped the queue entirely due to corruption and connections with some officers at the department. Others had luck on their side.

Some of the officials who periodically collect receipts and tracking slips to go check on the status of the passports do not even bother to compile them on a first-in, first-out basis, instead piling what they had recently collected on what they picked earlier.

It took Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to calm down the frustrated Kenyans. He also held a meeting with officials at the department and ordered them to temporarily relocate officers from other sections of the department so that they would issue all passports that were ready, even if it meant working late into the night, and it came to pass.

He also promised that when clients return for services at the department on Thursday after the holiday, the process would have been streamlined. Hopefully, he kept the pledge.

It does not, on average, take 15 days to process a passport application at the immigration department.

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