The Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration headquartered at the Ministry of Internal Affairs is one of the most important service points not only for Ugandans but also for foreigners visiting or working in the country.
Everyday of the week, thousands of people flock the ministry to process passports, work permits and other vital documents.
But Ugandans and other nationals endure unbelievable suffering, confusion in the process of trying to be served despite the fact that they part with a lot of money for the services.
Chaos is the best term to use while describing the state of affairs at the office. Starting from the make-shift dirty tent sitting in the courtyard of the ministry’s compound, the atmosphere is one of total confusion.
Unlike other public places such as hospitals, where signposts are installed or pinned to give people directions, at the Immigration office, one has to find their way in a crowded place by asking whoever is willing to direct them for directions.
Secondly, there are far fewer officers at hand to serve clients, which creates very long queues. You can imagine, a handful of people are available to serve millions of thousands of people.
The resultant confusion is now being exploited by unscrupulous individuals to make money in the name of helping you. Simply put, corruption is rife at the department.
Many will recall with regret the passing of General Aronda Nyakairima, the humble general who had restored sanity in the process of acquiring passports and national IDs. By introducing and instilling military discipline among the immigration staff, Gen. Aronda helped to ensure that an applicant would receive his or her passport in just ten days and without having to pay a bribe.
This has all disappeared. Now, you have to endure chaos, hangers-around and be forced to wait for at least one month before you can get a travel document.
In this day and age, a passport is not only a right for every Ugandan, it is a business document. It helps us to travel to areas of work and to move goods and services. Of recent, the government has been praising itself for easing business through registration. The Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) for example is on record for stating that it can register a business in one day.
One wonders why isn’t the Immigration office able to deliver a passport at least in a week, especially when people’s biometric data is available?
Also the government spends a lot of money promoting the country’s image abroad for tourists and investors. It’s shocking to see how our guests suffer at the immigration office trying to renew visas and secure work permits.
The sorry state of affairs demands for urgent intervention by the government to end the chaos.
The Minister of Internal Affairs Gen. Jeje Odong needs to revive the legacy of his predecessor and colleague Gen. Aronda and re-instill discipline among the officers.
The Directorate of Immigration needs to take a business approach to things by being efficient, customer friendly and up-to-date with modern ways of life.
The government needs to move with the times by either resorting to technology to increase service delivery or dicentralize services. The Chief Administrative Office or better still, the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) through its branch network, can be empowered to issue passports and other national documents.