Budgetary constraints delay passports
LAHORE, Dec 9: The Federal Finance Ministry and the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports, Islamabad have locked horns over non-release of budgetary allocations for passport booklets and related material, causing delays in issuance of passports.
After the government extended the passport validity from five years to 10 years from Nov 1, most passport offices are witnessing rush of applicants who are already facing delays up to five months or so.A good number of students, people with job letters, businessmen and others have been suffering a lot due to their repeated visits and new dates for passports.
A source at the DGIP confided to Dawn that the finance ministry had conveyed to the directorate authorities to justify the expenditure on earlier budgetary releases. He said the ministry suspected ‘anomalies’ and ‘mismanagement’ in the spending, adding the matter had now been taken up seriously by the interior ministry a few days ago.
The source said the Security Printing Corporation of Pakistan was not fulfilling the requirement of around 15,000 booklets a day because of non-payments by the DGIP.
He said the problem started in April this year and worsened in November. The appearance of the director general before a Senate Standing Committee on Nov 28 revealed shocking figure of backlog of 300,000 passport applications across the country, he said.
It was further informed that the delays in the release of budget were the major reason and the directorate was only getting 5,000 copies from the SPCP daily.
Another source told this reporter that being profit-making entity, the DGIP was not even getting 20 per cent (according to rules) of the total revenues from the ministry against its operating expenditure and shortages of manpower and logistic support.
He said the delays in issuance of passports were encouraging the agent mafia to mint up to Rs20,000 per applicant for “timely processing”. He said the DGIP was not even responding to the correspondences and oral communication by the regional passport offices about the growing number of complaints.
The source said the delay of up to three weeks for urgent passports and five months for ordinary passports was now a routine.
A resident of Defence Housing Authority, who wished not to be named, told this reporter on Sunday that he and his four family members applied for ordinary passports in the first week of September last and were given collection date of Sept 22.
He said he visited the Garden Town passport office a week ahead of collection date but was advised to visit after two months, adding later he was again told that the passports were not yet arrived due to some financial problems.
“I have to perform Umra in January along with my family but passports are not there. Now, I am requesting different people to approach the authorities for timely process,” he said.
He blamed the authorities for mismanagement in the department.
A passport official said after the announcement of 10-year validity of passports, up to 800 applicants were approaching the Garden Town office daily against the capacity of 550 and 500 others were visiting Abbot Road office which can accommodate 350 people in a day.
He said two new passport offices – in Faisalabad and Renala Khurd – were opened a few days ago and had been provided staff and logistics from other ill-equipped offices. Such a scenario exposed the claims of the powers that be, he added.