Find the culprit and cut passport snag


By TK Chua

The Immigration Department must identify problems quickly and get its priorities right.

With all due respect, if Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed is unable to fully understand the problems plaguing the Immigration Department, what more us, the poor citizens of this country?

All we know is that many of us now have to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to apply for or renew our passports and for all our trouble, we are still unsure if we will be able to obtain our passports on time.

I heard the new Director General of Immigration is going to introduce online applications soon. But how soon before this takes effect, we do not know. In the meantime, the problems in the Immigration Department persists.

The deputy minister’s statement this morning on the same issue is again rather confusing. Is the delay due to “passport books” or the “chips” embedded in them? When he said there was now bickering between the passport vendor and chip supplier, was he saying the department was not sure where the problem lay?

I think it is rather useless to make statements urging the passport vendor and chip supplier to put the interests of the people first rather than fighting among themselves. Frankly, who is going to yield in a situation like this unless the culprit is identified first?

In this instance, the Immigration Department, as the buyer and user, must call the shots. The department must determine where the fault lies and who is culpable.

Having done that, the department must take immediate measures to correct the situation. This is where priority comes in – solve the immediate problems at hand first, and think of new grander measures like online applications later.

Vendors and suppliers must be told in no uncertain terms to rectify their problems immediately, mandating them to work long hours or overtime if necessary.

Taking six months (as reported) to resolve the existing problem is unacceptable. It is far too long, and by then the backlogs could get worse.

To be fair, the performance and delivery of the Immigration Department has improved enormously in recent years, given the resources and manpower poured into it. It is mandatory for us to find out why we are now unable to sustain the improvements we have attained so far.

When we engage consultants, appoint new vendors and suppliers, as well as introduce new systems and methods, do we have a mechanism in place to reprimand and change under-performers? Is it possible that some consultants, suppliers and vendors are holding the department to ransom when the department’s personnel are poorly trained and ill equipped to deal with them? Have we worked ourselves into a situation when consultants, vendors and suppliers call the shots?

I think citizens of this country deserve better. They shouldn’t be left to get so stressed just to obtain a travel document. Please stay focused and have some sense of urgency to break the gridlock quickly.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

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