Director of Passports Francis Kotia wants Ghanaians to stop looking for quick fixes in obtaining a passport, a practice he notes is fodder for corruption.
He wants Ghanaians to consider the time spent in acquiring a passport as a citizen’s contribution to fighting corruption.
The Passport Office is part of a wide range of government services throttled by several layers of middlemen, known as ‘Goro boys’.
Promising fast and efficiency for a fee, these men are able to procure on behalf of the interested, a gamut of services – birth certificate, driver’s licence, Tax Identification Numbers, business registration certificates.
Finding queues for these services inconvenient and time-wasting, applicants succumb to their offer. Goro boys usually work through a government employee to fast track service and then share the spoils of a quick buck.
The Passport Office is believed to be swarmed by middlemen although the Director of Passports explained it has uniformed military officers who remove any “unwanted” persons.
“It is a menace,” “we have been grappling with it,” the boss who is three-months-old on the job confessed. There have been several arrests, he said without providing a concrete figure or concrete outcomes.
Once a suspect is handed over to the police, the outcomes of punishment are no longer in the hands of the Passport Office, Kotia explained.
While fishing out these persons is part of the work of military officers at the Passport Office, another layer for routing them out is the applicant, he indicated.
If an undesignated person offers to help for a fee, “it is incumbent on the applicant to take this matter up,” he charged.
Francis Kotia said applicants must be willing to report such persons including officials in his office who solicit for money.
“Just give me a name,” he vowed to take action if supplied with details about unscrupulous persons.
He stressed that “Passport office can only fight corruption if there is a collaboration between the general public and the office…we on our own cannot fight corruption.”
A third level of fighting corruption, he said, is fast-tracking the use of an online application process which removes the human interface.
“It is supposed to fundamentally change it,” he promised.
He assured, his Office will roll out such as service that allows applicants to get a passport within 48hours, maximum – 72hours.
That service will be rolled out by December 2019.