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Opinions of Sunday, 27 December 2015

Columnist: Abdulai, Alhaji Alhasan

Let’s decentralize passports and Licenses acquisition to end bribery

By Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai

Many people in the country expressed delight when some magistrates were sacked from the judiciary when they were found culpable in bribery scandals occasioned by an investigation by Anas Arimiyaw Anas the ace investigative journalist. The measures delivered by the Chief Justice Theodora Wood on the advice of the judicial council would surely send signal to all those in the judiciary to be careful with their work. In spite of the punishment meted out to the judges and others in other government outfits as a result of Anas expose and other investigations and prosecutions, bribery and corruption are far from over in the country. The authorities are bent on punishing wrong doers in public services as exhibited in jail sentences and sacking of some public officers. However there is the need for government to embark on preventive measures to minimize corruption in public service outfits.
For example corruption would be minimized in passport acquisition if the processes involved would be decentralized to enable all those wishing to apply for passports to do so in any part of the country without having to travel down to Accra. We should stop deceiving ourselves. Everyone knows what happens at the passport office before Ghanaians who are qualified for passports are issued with one. They pay huge sums of money through their noses to middlemen some of who are officials of the Ghana Immigration Service and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is sad to note that under the new directives everyone wishing to acquire passport must present himself or herself for their biometric features to be taken. That apart there are two or three people appointed to approve and order the issuance of passports for people coming from all parts of the country. How do we allow only three people to approve passports for the teeming number of people wishing to get passports? This is not fair. The time has come for passport acquisition to be properly decentralized by allowing many people to approve and issue them. It has to begin from the immigration service staffs that would as usual nave to vet the passport forms in their regions and localities. After this they must be empowered to seek approval and issue passports in the regions. This method is practiced in the Federal Republic of Nigeria where people from all parts of the country go for passports in their regions. Because decentralization is working somehow in Nigeria I do not believe that everyone wishing to go for passport would travel to Abuja or Lagos for it. It does not make sense for it would be like one hospital with only three doctors attending to patients from all over the nation of millions of patients. We must learn from Nigeria and other nations . Apart from passports we must also ensure that driving licenses are issued in all parts of the country. Passports and driving license acquisitions are not the only things that need to be decentralized. Looking seriously there are many other services that need be rendered for people close to their homes and all we need is to identify and get the right personnel and offices to deal with the issues involved. This way we can solve the problems of our people with regards to passport and licenses issues instead of allowing them to embark on long travels with attendant extra expenditure and bribery that go with it.

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