Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, has vowed to shake up the passport acquisition processes in the country to ensure that the laid down procedures and timelines for obtaining a passport are adhered to.
In an unannounced visit to the Regional Passport Office in Accra and subsequently a visit to the Ridge Headquarters of the Passport Directorate of the country, the Minister for Foreign Affairs was taken through all the stages that passport applicants are subjected to should they desire to acquire passports. She also interacted with some passport applicants who were at the regional office to secure their passports.
In an interview after the surprise visit, Ayorkor Botchwey said she has concluded that the process for passport acquisition is seriously cumbersome and unacceptable. Officers at the Passport Directorate told the Minister that they are able to serve one hundred (100) applicants a day. It emerged that it is this cut off quota that informs the decision of applicants to come as early as 2am to queue in order to make the number.
Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey concluded that in order to ease the congestion at the Accra Passport Office, and stop applicants from coming this early to acquire passports, the decentralization efforts by her Ministry is going to be intensified. Through this exercise, more passport offices will be opened starting from Cape Coast in the Central Region.
At the online passport application unit, the process appeared to be calmer and applicants were going through the process more smoothly. The Minister, therefore, made a passionate appeal to Ghanaians to patronize the online portal for their passport applications.
The Minister as part of the visit toured the Printing Room of the Passport Office. The office has two printing machines which have the capacity to print about 500 passports a day. Acquiring additional passport printing machines according to the Minister is a national emergency which needs urgent attention from her Ministry. She pledged that measures would be put in place going forward for the procurement of more printing machines.
It emerged that there are about sixty thousand (60,000) passports that have been printed but unclaimed by applicants. She appealed to the general public to take steps to claim their passports to clear the shelves of the Passport Directorate.
The Minister Intervenes on the Behalf of Applicants
During the Minister’s interaction with passport applicants, she received collection slips from about six (6) of them. They have been waiting for several months to receive their passports and have had occasion to come to the passport office on several times for pick up bit to no avail. She instructed passport officers to run checks while she goes on her tour and report to her their finding.