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Opinions of Thursday, 22 December 2016

Columnist: Tsikata, Prosper Yao

A more balanced perspective after an encounter with embassy staff

By Prosper Yao Tsikata, Ph.D

On Monday, December 19, 2016, I received my Ghanaian passport at the Ghana Embassy in Washington, D.C. Having been disappointed by the mission’s services and having taken to the media to express my frustrations and that of many Ghanaians who require similar services from the embassy, I also find it extremely important to shed light on my encounter with senior embassy staff on Monday, December 19, 2016, when I returned to collect my passport.

When I returned to the embassy on the aforementioned date to pick up my passport, the senior staff of the embassy responsively engaged me to explain current operational processes and the ongoing restructuring of the processes to me. What I took out of this engagement is that they are interested in understanding user or customer experience and perception in the hopes of removing some of the bottlenecks that engender some of the frustrations I narrated in my earlier opinion piece.

I must acknowledge that the embassy in Washington, D.C., and, perhaps, many Ghanaian missions and embassies around the world are undergoing restructuring to make the acquisition of Ghanaian passports, visas, and any other consular services easily accessible and available to Ghanaians and foreigners, eliminating some of the bottlenecks that obviously frustrate their customers.

In my case in particular, it became clear after our discussion that my application was one of the test cases in a bid to establish durable protocols for the running of the biometric passport by the systems managers. As to be expected with trial cases, there were hitches that were not envisaged when a date was assigned to me to pick up my passport.

Instead of contacting me with an update regarding the difficulty, the embassy failed in that direction. While this was very frustrating, I also came to appreciate the strenuous conditions under which embassy staff are operating to establish working protocols that are meant to eliminate delays within the system. From this new perspective, it is clear to me that I could have been issued with the old passport without some of the hitches I encountered. In this case, it would have saved me the frustration of having to return to the embassy many times for the same purpose.

For the embassy staff, it would have saved them the unsavory media attention. This option would also mean that I would have to return to the embassy again at a later date in the near future to begin the process to acquire the biometric passport, as Ghana is moving toward a universal biometric compliance in the next few months. I am glad I do not have to return to the embassy in a short time to start another process to be biometric complaint. I thank the staff for that administrative decision.

I also acknowledge that there was an overreach on my part that placed embassy staff in a bad light. This was as a result of the frustration caused by the situation.

Both sides (my side and the side of embassy staff), however, agreed that this situation was avoidable with a simple email to update all users, including me, about the process, so we do not have to travel to the embassy many times before collecting our passports or accessing other consular services. Lessons have been learnt by both sides that should go a long way to help the embassy in their continuing effort to make services to users or customers better.