Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Paul Chibingu was left visibly stunned in Mzuzu on Tuesday when a senior Immigration Department official openly accused the ministry of favouring the Malawi Police Service (MPS).
The minister was in Mzuzu to launch the printing of passports in the Northern Region.
However, regional immigration officer (North) Nelson Kankhande said skewed funding has left the Department of Immigration with one vehicle in the region and the majority of officers living in costly houses.
Kankhande said a fleet of old vehicles that are prone to breakdowns has forced the department to halt roadblocks at Chitimba and Phwezi, the core of a regional border surveillance system which led to arrests and deportation of 2 034 illegal immigrants since July last year.
He said: “Mobility is a very big problem and remains a cross-cutting issue. For the past three months, we have been using one vehicle in the whole region—not just in Mzuzu. The vehicles from Karonga, Chitipa and Songwe have been packed at a garage in Luwinga.”
Chief immigration officer Masauko Medi said he was aware of the letdown, saying the situation in the Northern Region was reflected nationwide and makes some officers feel sidelined by their mother ministry.
Speaking in front of Chibingu, Masauko stated: “Let me re-emphasise the problems of accommodation and mobility. My friend talked in parables like Jesus, but this is ‘a general problem’.
“Why should you buy vehicles for police, not immigration? Why should the police have a lot of vehicles at one station while immigration officials in the entire region have one? This is an issue to do with poor funding and the situation is the same in the prison service.”
The cries of underfunding are also widespread in the prison service, confirmed Mzuzu Prison in-charge Herrings Nyalubwe, who said: “This year alone, we got about K45 million for rations. We largely rely on debts to feed the overwhelming number of inmates in our custody and there are times they go without food when we fail to pay what we owe the suppliers.”
In an interview, the minister said President Peter Mutharika and his administration are aware of the deplorable housing and funding situation.
When asked about the low vehicle population, Chibingu said: “This is an urgent matter and government is negotiating with car dealers if they can give us some vehicles ahead of the passing of the 2015/16 budget somewhere in July.”
The minister also calmed a wave of discontentment in the Department of Immigration and prison services where numerous officers reportedly go over 10 years without promotion.