The Herald, can authoritatively say that claim by the Foreign Affairs Ministry that the Passport Office is unable to process backlog of applicants as a result of technical challenges, is a blatant falsehood.
A visit to the Tema Station Passport Office, reveals how officials there have deliberately created artificial shortages just to extort moneys from desperate Ghanaians, who need passports for one reason or the other.
A phony vetting process, has been created in the Passport office with the endorsement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, and it has created an avenue for naked corruption in the acquisition of the Ghana’s Passport.
The officials through their middlemen (goro boys) are charging between GH¢600 to GH¢1000, before processing these passports within one week.
In some cases, application forms have to be endorsed and authorized by the Foreign Minister’s office before the passports are processed for applicants.
Monies are collected by some Foreign Affairs officers, but it is not clear, if these sums find their way into the purse of the Minister before Director of Passport; Mr. Amanor is instructed to process the passports.
Forms for Passport cost only GH¢50 and GH¢100 for the normal and express service, respectively. However, if one does not engage the services of these middlemen and cedes to their demands of GH¢600 to GH¢1000, it will take forever to receive the passport.
They loiter around the environs of the Passport Office to transact the illegal business without any fear. Some of them, have been traced to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They collect applications and send them to the ministry for authorization and printing.
These ‘goro boys’ are spotted all through the roads leading to the Passport Office with some standing right in front of the gate, although some Military Police officers, have been stationed there to maintain law and order.
They are always ready to serve, provided a client is prepared to part with a whopping GH¢600, instead of the GH¢50 and GH¢100, depending on the number of days one wants the passport.
During this paper’s visit, this reporter was asked what the mission was by these officers, whom we suspect, are in no doubt part of the syndicate.
After telling them he was there to acquire passport, they told him to go back and get the forms, fill and then come and submit it. They insisted security was tight and so they will not allow anyone to enter the premises to ask further questions.
When he asked when he is likely to get the passport, when he submits his form, he was immediately directed to talk to one of the ‘goro boys’, who promised to deliver within a week upon receipt of GHc600.
He gave his name only as Kwasi, claiming there are people who have submitted their forms since the beginning of this year, but are yet to receive them, because of the official information that there is shortage of booklets.
“It depends on when you want it. If you have Ghc600, it can be done for you in a week, so if you are ready, when you come, look for me, I am Kwasi, I will work it out for you”, adding “ if you use the approved procedure, you will get it, but it will take time. There are people who submitted their forms from March; they have not had it yet, because of the shortage”.
A cozy relationship was witnessed while engaging the ‘goro boy’. Officials from the Passport Office passed by and fondly greeted Kwasi and mentioned his name, meaning they are in the know what he does on their premises.
Speaking to some of the applicants who were loitering around at the time of our visit, they complained bitterly about how they have had to come there many times this year to pick up their passports, but to no avail.
They confirmed the activities of the middle men, but said they are unable to pay the amount they are charging.
On social media, people complained bitterly about their experience with the Passport Office.
One facebook user said “I went to renew my passport in February, but I have not gotten it”.
Another said, “Boss you are not alone am still waiting for mine”. One lady could not say much except to say “The #nobooklet syndrome”
It will be recalled that, recently a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Tijani, blamed the shortage of passport booklets on technical challenges.
Mr Tijani, had explained to the media in July, that every year, 4000 booklets are printed and issued by the Controller and Accountant General, however, due to technical fault, only 2000 had been printed this year, leading to the difficulty in accessing a Ghanaian passport.
He said that, the problem had been rectified to ensure that more booklets are printed.
“Every year we issue 4000 passport booklets, but this year due to technical reasons, only 2000 booklets were issued by Controller and Accountant’s outfit.”
He added: “We have rectified the problem, the passports office will work Saturday and Sunday to normalise the situation.”
He further indicated that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, has put in place several measures to ensure that challenges associated with the issuance of passports are dealt with.
“The minister for the past two years, has been working to ensure Ghanaians do not have difficulty accessing passports,” he said
But more than a month after his assurance, the situation still persists and Ghanaians who are unable to pay this illegal fee, are left stranded on a daily basis at the Office.