Government to retool Passport Office to enhance efficiency – Bawumia
The Vice President, Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, on Thursday paid a surprise visit to the Passport Office in Accra and expressed Government’s commitment to resource the Centre to render efficient service.
He said there had been many complaints from the public regarding undue delay in processing passport applications.
The visit, he said, was therefore aimed at familiarising himself with the challenges at the Centre, to make him appreciation the situation better.
This is the second time this year that the Vice President had visited a public institution unannounced.
On January 18, this year, the Vice President undertook a similar unannounced visit to the Registrar General’s Office to familiarise himself with their operations.
The Vice President who spoke to the media after the tour of the various units said in view of what he had witnessed at the Passport Centre, there was an urgent need to improve the facilities.
He expressed concern about the long queues at the Centre, coupled with the long period of waiting, saying ‘‘People have been waiting here since 0200hours last night just to submit a form and this is not good enough, therefore we need to improve the system’’.
Alhaji Dr Bawumia called for an urgent move from the manual processing of passport to online system, adding that, every region must have the capacity to process passport online to ensure quicker delivery of service.
‘‘People are suffering too much just to get a passport. But the good news is that the Foreign Minister is very much on top of the issues and the directors here are very much interested in the changes we are bringing, which have already started,’’ he said.
Mr Samuel Ofosu Boateng, the Deputy Director of the Passport Office, who briefed the Vice President on the operations of the Centre and challenges confronting them, admitted that the manual processing of passport often delayed the delivery of service.
He said the Centre started piloting the electronic passport application in November last year and currently processed 150 applicants per day.
He expressed the hope to increase to 300 by next week, while doing 200 applicants manually per day.
Mr. Boateng noted that although it had started the online application, applicants were supposed to enter their data themselves, and afterwards book appointment to the Passport Office in order to take their biometric data.
The Centre, he said, had wanted to phase-out the manual processing of passport by the end of March this year, but per the situation on the ground, it would not be possible because of the high number of people still applying manually.
He expressed the hope that the time would be extended to June.
Mr Boateng said the electronic processing of passport would be extended to other regional centres including Kumasi, Sunyani, Takoradi, Tamale and Ho.
He said when the Centre checked the online registration recently about 2,000 people had booked appointments and would, therefore, create more sheds at the Centre to attend to them.
Mr. Boateng said although there were some technical challenges with the online registration, a Committee had been constituted to deal with any unforeseen difficulties, and also help in rolling out the online registration in other regions.
Commenting on the long queues at the Centre, he said some applicants travelled from other regions to Accra, and said although their officials had told them to patronise the regional centres, yet some applicants still preferred coming to Accra.
To address the menace of middle-men popularly called the ‘‘Goro Boys’’ Mr. Boateng said currently people who visited the Centre were given special tags while police personnel had been stationed at the entrance to check visitors in order to prevent intruders.
The Deputy Director warned that any staff caught dealing with the illegal passport syndicates would be sanctioned and cited a recent incident where a staff of the Centre had been penalised for a similar offence.