MASERU — The Passport Office is relocating from Pitso Ground in what authorities say is the first move in cleaning up the corruption-infested department.
The new offices will open near the Maseru Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
The Pitso Ground offices will no longer be in use.
The director of passport services, Sello Mokoena, told the Sunday Express that the office had been moved because the one at Pitso ground was too crowded
“At the new offices there will be a clear channel of who handles what and when,” Mokoena said.
“There will be no place for crooks because only people who are applying for passports will be allowed into the premises.
“At Pitso Ground we were not able to do that.”
An investigative report by the Sunday Express in March exposed rampant corruption in the Passport Services Department.
It revealed a syndicate involving photographers working outside the Pitso Ground offices and passport officers who were taking bribes to fast-track the issuance of passports.
The scandal was unearthed after an undercover reporter paid a bribe of M800 to a photographer and other department officials to process a passport in two days.
A week later a photographer was arrested after he was caught issuing temporary travel documents (TTDs).
There were also allegations that some senior officials at Government Printers were mass-producing the TTDs for sale to passport officials who in turn would supply them to photographers.
Mokoena this week said the new offices, which are located at the old Disaster Management Authority offices, will have better control systems to curb corrupt activities that have rocked the department.
“The new office will have better systems,” Mokoena said.
“We will not be having guards assisting people with their applications as was happening at the Pitso offices.”
“The new offices will be structured like a banking hall. An applicant will move from one counter to the next,” he explained.
“At the old office applicants used to move from one office to the other and sometimes this worked in favour of corrupt people.”
This paper understands that the decision to move the office came after the release of a critical report by the Systems Integrity Committee of the Ministry of Home Affairs under which the passport department falls.
The report, compiled by the heads of department in the ministry, found the Pitso Ground offices to be chaotic.
This paper has seen part of the report.
“Workflow systems are not appropriately placed and structured,” said the report, finalised in July last year.
The report also blasted the state of the Pitso Ground offices.
“The location of the office itself is not in a conducive environment for the type of activities undertaken by the office of this nature,” the report said.
“The place is in a slum area, surrounded by shacks, and this congestion makes it difficult to detect those who are in need of passport services and those who are not.”
There is high shortage of staff at the Maseru Passport District office, the report said.
“Corruption is said to be rife in this office.”
The report also alleged that due to the staff shortage at the office some security guards were “performing the duties of passport officers, as they were issuing some forms to those seeking passport services”.
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