Forget passports, the Malawi Govt hacked its system

…hacked Techno Brain system using amateurs

…Malawians to pay for another mediocre decision

Forget getting a passport any time soon; data has been lost, the system locked, and now Malawians will still have to drain the already thin public purse to pay for some “silly” decision by Malawi Government officials to hack their passport printing system.

Forget having them soon or later

One consistent and sure thing President Lazarus Chakwera’s administration has is a contingent of mediocre officials that cost taxpayers money for making decisions that they cannot explain. The Immigration Department, assisted by the e-Government and Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) is the latest the passport saga.

Techno Brain, the contractor whose contract was cancelled and restored in 2021, is set to claim millions of dollars after officials from e-Government and Immigration concocted a new way to bypass the contractor and print passports without paying for the license.

They created a mess and deleted passport data.

Hundreds if not thousands of passport data were lost by the amateurish attempt by the Malawi Government to steal system access, and even after paying, some will have to redo everything they have done- thanks to innovation by the digital government agencies.

The contractor- Indian-based Techno Brain, licensed the Immigration Department and gave secure access to the Immigration IT team to print a specific number of passports using a specific license.

After challenges in passport printing, the issue of passport books and accessories was finally resolved, and Immigration was back in service. Thousands of Malawians, some hoping to travel to Israel for the newly created farm jobs, were sure they would get the coveted travel document and leave Malawi. But now they can’t.

the famous MCP ICT gurus visited the Immigration offices

“They came to the IT office one day and started working on the system, disregarding all ICT-trained personnel. They claimed it was part of the standardisation of the e-government services where everything is on one platform. They had the famous MCP ICT gurus,” our source at the Immigration Department said.

Immediately, they tried to override the Techno brain printing system, but the whole cheating process collapsed. Techno-brain sensing attempts to bypass their system shut down all security features printing, leaving the e-government team and Immigration to handle their mess.

Malawians now can only get emergency travel documents.

“The team that came was arrogant with I know it all attitude. They sidelined the Immigration trained team who had been handling the systems for years, now they messed up,” charged an Immigration officer.

The cover-up, transfers and ignored advice

After being caught pants down, the Immigration and e-government officials had to think fast as the pressure from the public, some of whom had been promised passports the following day, was building up.

The first solution was to transfer some of the experienced ICT members to the Malawi Police Service while others were moved from the ICT department to other sections.

“They thought they had it under control. They have been trying to cover up by punishing the innocent,” said another source.

The department informed the TechnoBrain that they had been hacked. TechnoBrain had already discovered attempts by unlicensed users to bypass the system and shut it down that the hacking theory did not make sense.

Despite being caught, the Department of Immigration, like all Malawi Government agencies under President Chakwera, has been competing to embarrass Malawians through dubious bills, buying fertiliser in a butchery and dining with bogus investors; nothing will happen to the architects of this new embarrassing episode.

MACRA senior officials presented themselves at Immigration Department and initially they were chased that it was not their domain, later they have been leading in efforts to save the embarrassing “thieving project” that has gone south.

“They want to pretend to use a well-known ICT company (name withheld) in Lilongwe as if it fixed the system, but in essence, MACRA will pay TechnoBrain and restore the system. MACRA official was in Nairobi to talk to TechnoBrain,” said a senior public official.

They will undercover restore the system which was messed up by Malawi government ICT team

The Investigator Magazine monitors any movement of funds from MACRA to the Lilongwe-based company, which will essentially be transmitted to the Indian company as an apology for its “foolishness.”

Raising campaign money?

Questions are being asked about several contracts and decisions by President Chakwera’s administration, including the payment of US$5 million to a Zuneth Sattar-linked company and an attempt to print more passports, which could see payments being made as if it was paid to Techno Brain.

“The extra passport fees would be claimed as if paid, and the money looks like it would be sent somewhere. It seems someone is exploring how to make money from everywhere as elections are now 17 months away,” said a source.

President Chakwera faces his most brutal election yet as he must defend his five-year record that has seen Malawi kwacha lose over 120 per cent in value and failed campaign promises, including cheap fertiliser and a million jobs for young people within his election year.

The ruling party gathering resources ready for the General elections

The President, now renowned for not keeping his word on anything, is widely projected to lose, with popularity ratings falling below 15 per cent, the lowest for any sitting President since the return of multiparty democracy.

One scary thing about the Malawi Government now is its ability to wake up and create the mess that costs taxpayers money. The news that national broadcaster MBC is hounding its journalists up to 16, using Police to intrude on their privacy, seems to be a story of a dictator in the mid-1980s, not a democracy Malawi is. It is over a Facebook page, and Malawians should be worried once these 16, including a very old Sheikh, decide to sue MBC after the drama created by MCP agents at the station ends in tears.

If that is not enough, several exceptional adults whose ICT credentials were to present data during election cases that propelled their party into power decided to embark on a foolish journey. Let’s hack and bypass our system to avoid paying fees to a contractor. When we questioned their credentials at appointments, we were called names, but looking at the costly but avoidable cases they create, one can assume their capacity and knowledge in the sector to be very inadequate.

The only sure thing is that despite messing up and costing the taxpayers money, the President will not act. Nobody expects President Chakwera to act on anything. Because his reaction to scandals is well known- pretend it wasn’t me. We are sure this administration is a huge fan of Shaggy’s It Wasn’t Me.

But time is everything; 35 scandals in 4 years costing trillions of kwacha is scandalous for any leader. He is supposed to act and act fast even as he contemplated not standing again in 2025. It would be unwise to trust the same people being caught at every turn to deliver an election victory. Wiseman would not keep people who believe the Bridgin Foundation, a foundation worth nothing, can source US$6 billion in grants. People can’t Google that Romania imports fertiliser and hence can’t supply 150,000 tons for maize, soy, etc. People who believe a butchery can supply fertiliser 

The list is too long and keeps growing; now, attempts to hack a system have ended, like many projects by these party officials the President appointed in public spaces. The saying that the President is a good man but is let down by those surrounding him now sounds hollow. In this case, as we noted in a recent US$5 million payment amidst national shortages, demonstrates that the President is the kingpin of corruption, the chairman of all these scandals; that is why, like any mafia don, he stands solidity behind these officials- even if they cost the public money. 

As a religious leader- a former one at least, he needs to understand his legacy, only his name will be attached to the five years that Malawians think are now a nightmare after being promised honey and milk, not hunger, thievery and high cost of living they are experiencing. Perhaps we need to read the Bible more, and for the Immigration scandal, Ecclesiastes 4:13 would suffice for President Lazarus Chakwera.

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