The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has secured office space from the Regional Coordinating Councils in the Upper East, Upper West and Central Regions for the establishment of Passport Applications Centres (PACs) in those regional capitals.
Madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, said the Head Office of the Passport Office was soon to be relocated to make way for the construction of the National Cathedral; stating that a new property had been allocated to the Ministry to be used as the new Passport Head Office.
She said the Ministry continues to discharge its mandate as outlined in the Passports and Travel Certificate Act 1967 (N.L.C.D. 155).
She said in carrying out its functions, the Ministry works in collaboration with other relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) such as the Birth and Death Registry, Controller and Accountant General’s Department, Ghana Immigration Service and other Security Services, all of which have representatives stationed in the respective PACs across the country.
Madam Botchwey said this, when she took her turn at the Meet-the-Press Series in Accra, to present the Ministry’s achievements and to deliberate on matters of national interest.
She said over the past two years, the Ministry had embarked on a number of initiatives to facilitate the process of passport acquisition for Ghanaians.
She noted that among these initiatives were the online passport application; downloadable Portable Document Format (PDF) Passport Application Form.
Others are extension of Passport Applications Centres (PACs) to eight regional capitals; the establishment of the Premium Passport Application Centre; overhauling of passport processing equipment; extension of the validity of passports from five years to 10 years; and the provision of premium services among others.
Additionally, there were plans to introduce 48-page passports to satisfy the needs of frequent travelers before the end of this year.
“I believe most applicants will now attest to the improvement in the passport service delivery. We are not there yet but we are making impressive progress,” she said.
“The Ministry has started discussions aimed at introducing chip embedded passports to keep up the pace of technological advancement and enhance the security of Ghanaian passports.”
She said seven Ghana Missions abroad, namely, Berlin, London, New York, Washington, Pretoria, Abuja and Tokyo, process and issue biometric passports to Ghanaians in the Diaspora.
“To further minimize the bottlenecks associated with the acquisition of biometric passports some Missions adopted the mobile enrollment of passport applicants in the course of the year,” she said.
“The Ministry has also earmarked the following Missions for the extension of the biometric passport service: The Hague, Moscow, Paris, Oslo and Brussels in Europe; Beijing and Riyadh in Asia and the Middle East respectively; Addis Ababa, Rabat and Dakar in Africa; Brasilia in South America as well as Canberra in the pacific.”
She said domestically, two additional facilities have been operationalised to provide online passport application services in Tema and Koforidua metropolis.
She said the Ministry periodically holds media briefing on the passport acquisition to increase public awareness on the appropriate processes and procedures in acquiring passports in Ghana and initiatives being introduced to ensure timely delivery of passports.
She said the Ministry also reaches out to public through the various social media platforms; adding that currently, with regard to online applications, Accra PAC processes 250 applications daily while the Premium PAC processes 400 applications daily on the average.
She said Tema and Koforidua process about 200 applications per day.
She said the intention was to roll out online passport application platform in all the regional PACs.
She said the ultimate plan was to phase out the manual forms by the end of 2019.
She said the Passport Office had been selected by the World Bank as one of the key public service agencies to receive support to procure necessary logistics such as additional printers, cameras, scanners, fingerprint scanners, signature pads, servers, furniture and computers among other things to enhance service delivery.
“I am very optimistic that by the time we successfully conclude implementation of this World Bank project and other initiatives, Ghanaians will be enjoying stress free and efficient passport service delivery both at home and abroad,” she said.