Passport Office faced with logistical challenges — Deputy Minister

Logistical challenges being encountered at the Passport Office has made it impossible to meet the growing demands of clients.

As a result, the office is only able to issue 3,000 passports daily out of the 5,000 clients who apply for the document, leaving a backlog of 2,000 applications each day, a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Kwaku Ampratwum-Sarpong, has said.

He said although the staff worked about 10 hours each day, they were unable to clear the backlog because they did not have the needed resources to work efficiently “and all that creates room for corruption”.

“We are not able to take the biometric data as people may expect because we don’t have enough computers to do the capturing and we are not able to print booklets because we don’t have enough printers to meet the demand,” the deputy minister added.

Mr Ampratwum-Sarpong, who disclosed this at a press conference to update the media on passports and consular services in Accra yesterday, said coupled with the increasing number of applicants, the office was unable to process applications in a timely manner.

The deputy minister attributed the situation to the cost of passports which he said was highly subsidised by the government, making it the cheapest to acquire in West Africa.

He said the resources that should have been channelled into purchasing equipment to facilitate timely delivery of services had been put into subsidies, leaving the office with limited resources to work with despite growing demands.

“The cost of printing a Ghanaian passport is $8, while in Liberia where it is the next cheapest, it is $40. Meanwhile, it is the same company that supplies passports to both Ghana and Liberia,” the deputy minister said.

He said the ministry was in consultation with other stakeholders, including the Ministry of Finance and Parliament, to discuss how they could ensure an upward review of passport application fees to improve on the turnaround time.

In the interim, Mr Ampratwum-Sarpong said some measures had been put in place at various passport application centres (PAC) to help streamline activities following the unannounced visit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, in August this year to some of the centres.

He said as part of efforts to speed up the printing and delivery of passports to applicants, the office acquired two Dilleta 900i manual printers this year which had led to the clearing of a backlog of about 310,513 passports as of last Friday.

The deputy minister also said that there had been an upgrade of the passport processing software at the Passport Office, including the installation of automated access controls, CCTV cameras and issuance of identification tags to staff to help reduce overcrowding at the centres.

Additionally, officers who had been at post for more than 12 months have been recalled reducing the incidence of middlemen.

Consular services
The deputy minister further said that the ministry in collaboration with the Ghana Immigration Service had completed the installation of a machine-readable visa hardware and the training of officers at 13 of Ghana’s Missions abroad.

The ministry is also working with Missions in Cairo and Addis Ababa to evacuate 85 Ghanaian nationals from Sudan.

“We are also in consultation with relevant stakeholders to establish and operate a Consular Fund to cater for the needs of stranded Ghanaians abroad,” he added.