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Passports to be acquired electronically

Prospective passport applicants can apply for passports online by the end of the year, after the Passport Office has introduced an electronic system to minimise the incident of passport racketeering.

Currently the Passport Office is in talks with some banks in the country for agreement on a payment platform which applicants could access to pay for the acquisition of passports online.

The Director of Passports, Mr Alexander Grant Ntrakwa, who made this known at a news conference in Accra Thursday, said the Controller and Accountant General’s Department, which is responsible for the printing of passport forms, was yet to make a decision on which banks would be selected for the implementation of the online application system.

The news conference was held to address some concerns the public continue to raise about the difficulty in acquiring a passport and other related matters.

Mr Ntrakwa said the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), as part of the trial process, ran a pilot project on the online system where six people used the process to apply for passports without any difficulty.

He explained that the online system would come with additional services such as text messages which would be sent to applicants to update them on the status of their applications.

Mr Ntrakwa added that the Passport Office was in talks with the National Identification Authority (NIA), on how the two institutions could collaborate to build a reliable database for the country.

War on ‘goro’ boys

Authorities at the Passport Office have started a clampdown on middlemen, known as ‘goro’ boys, who parade themselves as passport contractors at the offices.

The office has recently been inundated with passport applicants who, in their desperation for passports, contract people who seemingly work in league with some officials of the office to facilitate the acquisition of their passports.

Against that backdrop, Mr Ntrakwa said the office was being given a new image with the direction it was going and that the phenomenon of middlemen playing a role in the acquisition of passports for unsuspecting applicants would be a thing of the past.

A number of middlemen who allegedly duped innocent passport applicants have been arrested, all in a move to discourage the practice of their involvement in the process.

Backlog cleared

The director explained that upon his assumption of office in August last year, he was confronted with a backlog of 25,000 passports that were yet to be printed and that by December of that same year, the backlog had been cleared, leaving 551 that were not immediately printed.

He explained that the frequent breakdown of machines contributed to the delay, but added that the office, with the support of the ministry, acquired two new printing machines to clear more than 26,000 passports as of May, this year.
Passport centres

The Chief Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Mr Leslie Kojo Christian, said regional passport application centres would soon be opened in Cape Coast, Wa, Koforidua and Bolgatanga.

He said the Passport Office at Ridge in Accra was not a passport application centre except for emergency cases and thus advised all applicants to seek services at the various regional application centres.




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