General News of Wednesday, 16 December 2009
The Foreign Affairs Minister, Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni, has disclosed that preparation is far advanced for the introduction of a bio metric passport, to replace the current one.
A unique feature of the new passport is that the biometric passport and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) passport would be put together as one with the ECOWAS symbol embossed in it.
The initiative, according to the Minister, is to eliminate fraud in the issuance of passports, because they are security enhanced, which would make it difficult to be duplicated.
The Minister said this in parliament yesterday, when he was responding to a question on when his Ministry would operationalise the decentralisation of the issuance of Ghanaian passports, and ensure the elimination of the activities of middle men.
He said Ghana, as a member of the International Civil Aviation Authority, was under the obligation to begin using machine readable passports with biometric data, by April 2010.
According to him, one key requirement for the issuance of the new generation of passports would be the need for applicants to present themselves in person at the passport application centres, for their bio metric data to be captured.
He explained that instead of the applicant submitting photographs with application forms, the bio metric would require that the photographs and thumbprints be taken at the application centres, at the time of presenting the forms.
This measure, the Minister noted, was to ensure that applicants present themselves physically at the centres, to eliminate "middle men" and "passport contractors," as they are popularly called, who according to him, had messed up the passport acquisition process.
He said the process to kickstart the issuance of the bio metric passport was on course, and the equipment was being installed, awaiting parliamentary approval for kickoff.
The Foreign Minister informed the House that to facilitate the process of issuing the bio metric passport, a new process and application forms had been designed.
The process would also involve a one-time payment, in which the cost of the application form would be included in the passport fee, which would be purchased at the banks.
He mentioned that to enhance service delivery, all the processes, with the exemption of the final vetting, printing and issuance of the biometric passport, would be done on the same day, to speed up the process.
The Minister further stated that there would be seven application centres in Accra, Tamale, Ho, Sekondi/Takoradi, Kumasi, Sunyani, and the passport office.