Techno Brain breaks silence

Techno Brain Global FZ-LLC has broken its silence on the Malawi passport system mess, saying it made its assessment and submitted practical suggestions to Malawi Government, but is yet to get feedback.

The company’s statement comes barely a week after President Lazarus Chakwera told Parliament that the country’s passport issuing system was hacked by “digital mercenaries” and yesterday Minister of Homeland Security Ken Zikhale Ng’oma said the recovery process was at 90 percent.

A traveller shows off her old passport in this file photo

In the wake of the mess that has resulted in  suspension of passport printing and processing, some quarters accused TechnoBrain of having a hand in the purported hacking.

However, in a statement which Techno Brain representative Nandan Gopalakrishna confirmed last evening, the company said it empathised with Malawi and conducted an assessment despite handing over the system to Malawi last year.

Reads the statement: “On the contrary, Techno Brain swiftly responded to an urgent request for assistance from the Government of Malawi to resolve the issue in January 2024.

“We conducted an assessment of the situation and submitted practical suggestions to the Government of Malawi on the way forward. We have not heard back from the Government of Malawi on these suggestions to date.”

TechnoBrain also said it transferred and completely handed over the operations and administration of the Malawi e-passport system to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services [Dics] in June 2023.

It said: “This was done in accordance with a settlement reached by Techno Brain and the Government of Malawi following the premature termination of Techno Brain’s e-passport contract in October 2022.

“The handover was extensive and in  full accordance with the agreement with the Government of Malawi, including training of the Dics officers, handover of all credentials and security protocols, and all customised source code.”

Techno Brain said since the handover in June 2023, it recommended that the Department of Immigration engage and work with the original equipment manufacturer.

Meanwhile, during a press conference in Lilongwe yesterday, Ng’oma said the Department of Immigration had recovered 90 percent of the hacked passport system and was hopeful that the system will be up running within three weeks.

The minister, who was accompanied by the Department of Immigration and Citizen Services director general Charles Kalumo, said government has instituted a committee to look into the issue.

Said Ng’oma: “Only 10 percent of the system is yet to be recovered. After the system failure, the director general of Immigration started looking into it and he has managed to recover 90 percent of the system.”

The minister has since pleaded for patience while the investigations to establish what transpired are still underway.

Kalumo also pleaded for cooperation as the department works hard to restore the system.

“The attack on the system is directed at Malawians, not an individual. We need unity and cooperation to fight the common enemy,” he said.

The press briefing came a day after some concerned citizens asked President Chakwera to fire the minister and Kalumo over the prolonged passport issuance challenges, failing which the group would hold vigils at the Immigration premises.

The Information and Communications Technology Association of Malawi (Ictam) has also offered to help in resolving the issue.

In an apparent response to the Ictam call, Ng’oma called on Malawians to come forward with solutions that can help recover the system quick. 

He said: “If you have solutions or information that can help us get rid of this glitch, you are welcome to work with us. Please come forward, instead of giving ultimatums.”

Malawi has faced passport issuance challenges since 2021 when the government terminated its contract with Techno Brain, which was the country’s passport supplier since 2019.

In 2023, government re-engaged Techno Brain on a temporary basis, as it sought to find replacement.

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