The revelation was made by cross-border business people, who said they are forced to pay K1,000 as the minimum charge if the person is from Karonga and K3,000 or more if one is coming from Mzuzu and beyond, a development which commentators say is illegal and corrupt in nature.
Investigations done on two separate occasions at the two border posts, have revealed that apart from cashing in on this free document, there is too much arrogance by the immigration officers who man the border posts to those who are in the know that the document is for free and may argue for a general receipt (GR), which is an official government business transaction document.
According to the audio recording clip between one officer at Songwe border post, Stewart Kingston Mkwinda and our source, it exposes how rude these officers can be in their request for a border pass payment and how easy it is to beat the system when one demands a GR for the transaction as the officer is heard in the clip telling people in the face that the system of charging for a border pass was there, is there and will be there and nothing will ever happen to them.
In the conversation between the two, the officers are also heard demeaning the source that if he managed to buy a passport then there is no way he can fail to pay K1,000 for a border pass.
Another source Bright Mfune, who went to Tunduma through Chitipa-Isongole border posts, had similar experience and had to pay K2,000 for a border pass but was not issued with a GR and efforts to get it was denied.
Commenting on this development, executive director for governance civil society (CSO) Youth and Society (YAS), Charles Kajoloweka described it as unfortunate, saying it has potential to kill the country’s ’economy as money meant for social development is ending up in the pockets of greedy public officers’.
“That is part of corruption which may be seen as small but has a huge bearing on the economy of Malawi as a whole because if we put together those K1,000’s then we are talking of millions of kwachas per month because we have many people out there who are doing cross border businesses daily.
“And again, that shows how limited supervision in borders posts is as their bosses are sleeping on their jobs by failing to catch and punish officers involved in these corrupt malpractices as failure to issue a GR is theft by public servant which is punishable by law,” Kajoloweka said.
He cautioned authorities at immigration to fully investigate and bring to book every officer involved in this syndicate as leaving it unchecked the cancer will grow to grand corruption that at the end of the day will become uncontrollable and drain government money meant for social amenities that could benefit an ordinary Malawian.
However, in a telephone interview, Chief Immigration Officer Masauko Medi feigned ignorance of the malpractice and seemed to vindicate Kajoleweka’s sentiments that bosses are to blame as they are failing to put in place mechanisms to catch corrupt officers.
Medi said he is not aware of anyone charging border passes, otherwise the documents are for free.
He said as a government agency, wherever possible, they issue a GR for every transaction failure of which, the responsible officers are taken to task.
Medi promised that an investigation will be carried out to establish whether indeed there is a syndicate of officers that is cashing in on the free documents for their own benefits.
“What you have to know is that as a government office, we have our own systems and mechanisms of collecting money on behalf of government. And we offer GR’s to acknowledge receipts and that money goes straight in Account Number One.
“If there is someone taking advantage of peoples’ ignorance and chargeing money on documents that are supposed to be free, then that’s totally against the law and once caught, those officers will be brought to book to answer charges of theft accordingly,” Medi said.
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