The Immigration Department has been exposed for engaging in corrupt practices according to a report by the Ombudsman.
The report highlights instances where passport applicants were overcharged and given documents with fewer pages than requested. Moreover, there are cases of documents getting lost without a clear explanation. The Vice Chairperson of the Commission on Administrative Justice, Washington Opiyo Sati, reveals that their investigations indicated maladministration, inefficiency, and discourtesy by immigration officials.
Applicants who had paid for 50-page passports were issued 34-page passports without their consent or the option of a refund. Furthermore, when applicants raised concerns about missing documents, they were not provided with sufficient customer service and many of the department employees were impolite and dismissive. The commission initiated the investigation after receiving complaints from nine Kenyans. According to Mr Sati, seven complainants had paid for and applied for 50-page passports but were given 34-page passports without a refund.
Two individuals had issues with the Kenyan Department of Immigration regarding their passport applications. In the first case, an applicant was instructed to upgrade her application from the ‘A’ series to the ‘B’ series due to a supposed shortage of the ‘A’ series, but was still given an ‘A’ series passport with 34 pages and was not refunded the excess payment of Sh1,550. In the second case, an applicant was forced to reapply for her lost passport after the Immigration officers misplaced her renewal application. She was eventually issued the passport she originally applied for but with fewer pages than she had paid for. She was not refunded her first excess payment of Sh1,500 or her second payment for the lost passport of Sh12,050.
As per the report, it’s been stated that the department doesn’t have any automatic method to repay the extra money that is paid in case the applicant receives a passport with fewer pages than what they applied for. The department claims that the complainants had edited their applications to a lower series. Mr Sati disputes this, saying that it is not possible to make changes to the e-Citizen platform.
The commission is recommending that the department reimburse all applicants who have outstanding overpayments. They further call for policy guidelines to be created to standardize how any issues experienced during the passport application process are handled. According to the commission, the policy should address matters such as cancelling applications, upgrading or downgrading applications, handling urgent applications, and outlining the refund process.