The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, is fighting back accusation that it boss, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, has created an avenue at the Passport Office, where naked corruption is being perpetuated.
“…..on the claim that the Passport Office is corrupt, we wish to state emphatically that on the contrary, the Ministry prides itself in conducting business in an honest and ethical manner”.
According to the Ministry,contrary to The Herald’s publication on Friday August 24, 2018 titled “Foreign Minister creates Corruption Avenue at Passport Office”, it is rather working hard to address some of the challenges faced by applicants as far as manual system of passport acquisition was concerned.
The Ministry claims one of such measures is a decision to introduce the online application system alongside the manual passport application system, until the latter is phased out completely.
The Herald, had in that story narrated the frustration applicants have to go through because some officials at the Office, have decided not to execute their mandate and have contracted the services of middlemen near the Tema Station branch of the Passport Office, who demand between GHc600-1000 to process passport for desperate applicants within a week or sometimes in two days.
But a rejoinder to The Herald dated September 12, 2018, signed by the Director/Information and Public Affairs Bureau, Mrs. Barbara Addo, said “on the claim that the Passport Office is corrupt, we wish to state emphatically that on the contrary, the Ministry prides itself in conducting business in an honest and ethical manner”.
The statement said, the online registration was introduced to help do away with middlemen (Goro boys)who extort exorbitant fees from desperate applicants who are unable to go through the unnecessary bureaucracy and deliberate delays at the Passport Office.
“It is unfortunate that whiles the Ministry works to resolve some of these challenges, some members of the public continue to engage the services of middlemen in their quest to acquire a Ghanaian passport”.
The rejoinder recalled Ms. Botchwey’s unannounced visits to the Ridge Passport Office in May 2018, ostensibly to enable her acquaint herself with the operations of the two Passport Offices, as well as observe at first hand the challenges faced by applicants.
Mrs. Addo, said since the Minister’s visit which was to ensure an enhanced service delivery, “Effective monitoring has been ongoing to refine the services of the Passport Office and to ensure that customer expectations are met.
Thus, to say that the Hon. Minister is fueling corruption at the Passport Office is unacceptable, malicious, unfounded, misleading and an attempt calculated to tarnish her hard earned reputation as well as bring the name of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration into disrepute”.
Interestingly, the statement admitted that the Office just like any other human institution may have some challenges, but the Ministry continue to work to ensure applicants who visit to acquire Ghanaian Passport, obtain it without difficulty.
The Ministry said it cannot wholly be blamed for the challenges at the Office because it works with other institutions like the Birth and Death Registry, Controller and Accountant General’s Department, Immigration Service, Security Services whose representatives are stationed at the Passport Application Centers nationwide.
It must be put on record that while the Ministry writes to clear the image of Ms Ayorkor Botchwey, applicants are still stranded at the Passport Office with some of them who submitted their forms as far back as February this year, still do not have their passports and have no one to complain to.
The question the Ministry should be asking itself is that, if the process to get passport is that smooth, who would want to engage the services of middlemen who charge between GHc600-1000?
Below is what the Ministry sent to the Herald……