When William Tayub, once Malawi deputy ambassador to Mozambique, visited the place he used to know for the past 40 years as Mangochi Post Office in September 2017, he was greeted by a new brand: Mlambe Centre.
Like everyone, either born or raised up in the lakeshore district, Tayub has always followed the turn of events in the country, and particularly in Mangochi District, and his September visit was to prove one thing.`
“I heard about the Mlambe Centre concept under the Public Sector Reforms Programme (PSRP) initiated by President Peter Mutharika, upon assuming power. When I saw it taking shape right in Mangochi, I knew Malawi was on the move,” explains Tayub.
His second visit to the Mlambe Centre was in January 2017 to get his driving licence renewed.
“For the first time, I had my driving licence renewed right here in Mangochi without travelling to Zomba, where one had to endure extended delays due to unimaginable congestion,” explains the former diplomat.
Tayub’s excitement is a general feeling among the majority of people in Mangochi where running businesses, owning vehicles and travelling abroad is among the priorities of many residents.
The Mlambe Centre is an ‘offspring’ PSRP aimed at creating a civil service that is professional, efficient and productive in delivering services to the people.
The piloting of the Mlambe Centre has been done in Lilongwe and Mangochi before it rolls out to the rest of the country.
It brings the services of Malawi Posts Corporations (MPC), Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS), Department of Immigration and the Registrar General under one roof.
The Mlambe Centre, also known as the One-Stop Public Service Delivery Centre, is designed to offer multiple services such as the issuance of passports, driver’s licences, certificate of fitness (CoF) for vehicles, change of vehicle ownership, national identities as well as birth and death certificates.
They are also designed to provide tax inquiries services, business name registration and postal services.
The establishment of such one-stop centre in Mangochi has stirred excitement among many people, including traditional leaders.
“We consider ourselves lucky to have this development considering our needs as people of Mangochi,” says Sultan Chowe, whose area has arguably the highest number of people who trek to South Africa.
“Most of our children in Mangochi frequently trek to South Africa and the cost of processing travel documents such as a passport was usually high because they had to travel Blantyre or Lilongwe for that service.
“But today, all those services can be accessed right here in Mangochi under this one-stop centre.”
In just less than six months that the Mangochi Mlambe Centre has been operational, the patronage has demonstrated how convenient and handy the facility is to the masses in the district.
From October last year to February 12 this year, the Immigration Department section had already handled close to 1 000 passport applications, according to the centre’s officer in-charge Shadreck Chikwezeka.
“This is a clear indication that most people who applied for passports in Blantyre previously were from Mangochi. Bringing the services at their door-step has made life simple for them,” Chikwezeka says.
According to the immigration officer, the demand for passports is always growing with over 25 applications being processed every day.
The other sections, among them the MRA, the office of the Registrar and the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services are equally experiencing high patronage.
The manager for Mangochi centre Daniel Bwanali applauds the concept of Mlambe Centre.
“It’s workable, and it’s working,” Bwanali explains. “At first when we were opening, people did not believe that the centre was really offering all those services. But now, they are beginning to believe and they are coming in their large numbers.”
According to Bwanali, the centre has taken care of one major setback where clients seeking services from some of the centres such as MRA and Immigration had to pay through banks.
“This was a challenge at the beginning but we have now sorted it out. People are now paying right away here and issued with receipts accordingly.”
Equally excited with the Mangochi Mlambe Centre is Mangochi district commissioner (DC), Reverend Moses Chimphepo, who describes the development as a “well thought out initiative’.
Chimphepo says with a population of around 1.2 million, nothing better can meet the needs of the district whose people are always on the move for better opportunities.
The DC believes that with processing of passports within reach, issues of travelling abroad without papers will be minimised as distance and expenses of transport and accommodation had been deterrents to many passports seekers.
“Here is the development that we have all been waiting for and what remains for us to do as council is to sensitise people that there is no longer need to travel to Zomba or Blantyre to process their passports and other documents for their cars and businesses,” Chimphepo says.
To the people entrusted with the task of implementing the Mlambe Centre concept, it has been an exciting but challenging project to achieve, according to Seodi White, chief director for Public Reforms in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
She says: “It is exciting because this is the first time to have a project of this nature. To have multiple public institutions working under one roof in a coordinated and efficient fashion for purposes of providing better public services to the people of Malawi is ground breaking.
“The challenge has been to get all institutions and support them for full integration. It has taken us three years to achieve this.”
In an interview, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi says the establishment of one-stop centres shows government’s commitment to enabling its citizens to access information and service transactions at a one point thereby saving their precious time.
“The service centres will lead to direct access and enhanced convenience for citizens,” he says.
In the final analysis, Tayub said the Mlambe Centre will improve delivery of services.
Mutharika once said that “reforming the public service is not a matter of multiple choice. It will be done and it must be done.”