A section of Ghanaians have appealed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and the Passport Office to ensure that passports are printed and distributed promptly.
Though the time for receiving one’s passport after successful application is between six and 12 weeks for regular service and a maximum of four weeks for premium service, many people are yet to receive their booklets, with a backlog as far back as four to eight months.
Presently, the Passport Office is trying to clear a backlog of applications received for the issuance of passports, the only approved document for traveling abroad.
The situation has been persistent since last year, with the confirmation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration that over 9,000 applications were outstanding.
That has encouraged the operations of middlemen, also known as ‘goro boys’, who charge as much as four times the normal prices, to help desperate applicants.
Fees, paying more.
The standard application and premium service fees are pegged at GH¢100 and GH¢200, respectively.
However, the Goro boys charged between GH¢800 and GH¢2,000 for expedited service.
A number of passport applicants interviewed in Accra by the Daily Graphic over a period of four days (Monday, August 28 to Thursday, August 31) expressed their willingness to pay higher approved charges to acquire a Ghanaian passport within a reasonably shorter time.
Some, however, said although they were ready to pay more for timely service, they did not trust that it could lead to the delivery of passports on schedule because some people would still find ways of cutting corners for their personal benefits.
The mistrust, they said, was born out of the frustrations and stress they had endured in the effort to acquire a passport.
They also believed the challenge, though genuine, was also being exploited since middlemen, referred to as ‘goro boys’, were having a field day as some people, in desperation to get their passports to meet traveling deadlines, were compelled to pay more, oftentimes, illegally.
Some of the people interviewed said although they had paid the approved charge of GH¢100 to go through the regular process of acquiring the passport, they were yet to be issued their booklets after over eight months.
Those who had received their passports claimed they had to pay money ranging from GH¢800 to GH¢2,000 to have the passport acquisition process expedited.
For instance, an Assistant Procurement Officer at the Atiwa West District Assembly, Stephen Jagri, said he applied for the passport in January, this year, but had still not got it.
“They captured my biometrics on March 8, this year, and I was told that the passport would be ready by the end of April, but I have not received it yet.
I have been checking it up and they keep asking me to wait for it,” he said.
Mr Jagri alleged that some agents had approached him to pay money so that the application process could be facilitated.
He said acquiring a Ghanaian passport was so stressful that it was now for the high bidder.
“I am sure that if I had gone to pay the money to the agents, I would have got the passport long ago.
If you go by the normal way, you will wait for a very long time to get it.
That is the reason people avoid the stress and frustration by paying GH¢1,500 or GH¢2,000 to get it,” he said.
When asked if he was ready to pay a higher approved service charge for the timely acquisition of the passport, he said: “I am willing to pay more, but I am not convinced that if the service charge for passport acquisition is increased, there will be timely delivery of passport.”
The Corporate Communications and Marketing Officer of Trust Hospital, Accra, Margaret Oduro, said it took her four months to get her passport application processed from the time she submitted the forms to when she went to the Passport Office for a biometric appointment.
Ms. Oduro said it was important for the processing of the passport application to be expedited to reduce the delays in obtaining a passport.
“Introducing a fast-track option with fees ranging from GH¢500 to GH¢800 could greatly assist citizens in urgent need of a passport for visa processing,” she said.
A number of the interviewees agreed with Ms. Oduro and said they were prepared to pay legally double the official amount being charged for premium service for passport acquisition as long as they would get it promptly.
Recently, the Foreign Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, lashed out at officials of the Passport Office for condoning with the Goro boys to extort money from passport applicants.
Credit: Graphic Online