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General News of Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Source: Al-Hajj

Passport Office Collapsing

By: Iddrissu A. Jara distress

Barely a year after the launch of Ghana's biometric passport, the Passport Office is facing major difficulties in coping with the large number of applicants seeking to acquire new passports.

This embarrassing situation is due to the lack of functional interconnectivity from the main data center to the entire operational centers across the country.

Due to this, applicants from outside Accra end up having their data in different centers; creating an inconvenient situation where they would have to travel from region to region trying to locate the whereabouts of their data.

Another worrying condition hampering the rapid and effective running of the centers is the lack of logistics to ease delays in the issuant of passport to prospective applicants.

With the passport office in Accra receiving over thousands of applications every day, the center can pride itself with only three desktop computers and a scanner; a situation officials says delay their operations.

Another major concern that serves as a source of worry to officials is the unavailability of standby generators to forestall the situation where prospective applicants are left stranded in long queues as a result of power outage.

Aside the main office in Accra that has a somewhat standby generator, the other centers at the regional offices cannot boost of one, a situation our checks reveal was due to lack of funds. When The Al-Hajj visited the Accra office last week, anxious applicants had gathered both outside and inside the premises in a disorderly manner, with some security men taking advantage of the situation with the view to assisting people to acquire the passports. An applicant who spoke to The Al-Hajj on condition of anonymity remarked “it is very difficult to acquire a passport because of the long queue that one has to go through for so many days… before you would have your picture taken and given another date for collection.”

“Most of us leave our jobs to come…we spend days, weeks and months in a queue just to get a passport…our employers do complain bitterly of our continuous absence at work,” says another furious applicant.

Meanwhile, the Director of passport, E.O Anim in an interview with The Al-Hajj, blamed the unforeseen situation on the delay in release of funds from the Ministry of Finance to its parent ministry, Foreign, to purchase the needed equipments to resource the various offices.

“I have personally sent memos to the ministry and have made follow ups just to get the money released, so we can purchase computers, scanners and standby generators for the entire five centers but all my efforts have proved futile, you know my ministry is also depending on allocation of funds from the Finance Ministry” he said.

He added that “currently, the standby generator we are using was donated by the Korean Embassy some years ago and gradually running obsolete…we have to get a replacement for it and also get some for the other centers.”

Touching on the delay in the issuant of passport, the Director of passport explained that, applicants who receive their passports late are as result them dealing with middle men.

He advised prospective applicants to deal directly with officials at the passport office to avoid delays or been swindle by middle men under the pretext of aiding them get a passport.

The history of passports in Ghana started with the hand-written and later a switch-off to machine readable passport which is expected to be phased out by the year 2015 to give way to the biometric passport to conform to the International Civil Aviation Organization standards.

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