Despite government’s efforts to curb corruption at the Passport Application Centre near the Tema Station in Accra through the introduction of an online application system, some individuals, generally known as ‘goro boys’, continue to charge desperate applicants huge sums of money to fast-track acquisition of their traveling documents.
In the last three months most people who have applied for passports have expressed dismay at the delay in issuance of their passports, a situation the Foreign Affairs Ministry has confirmed is as a result of shortages in some essential materials required for producing the booklets.
The ministry, in a statement circulated last week, apologised to the public for the inconvenience caused and assured that all necessary steps are being taken to address the problem.
“While urgent steps are being taken to address the problem, the passport office will focus attention on priority cases – which include the ongoing hajj, medical and emergency cases,” the statement said.
However, information available to the B&FT shows that applicants who are willing to pay extra cash to the ‘goro boys’ – who profess to know senior officials at the Centre – can have their passports printed within a few days, regardless of the shortage.
A frustrated applicant who has not received his passport since he applied through the online application system in April, told the B&FT in an interview that an employee of the institution has offered to push for his passport to be printed if he pays GH₵300 to him.
According to the employee, he will give part of the money to someone who works at the printing department of the passport office to print out the booklet.
“I applied in June, and now August is here but it is still not ready because I hear they have a problem; but the last time someone told me if I have GH₵300 they will do it for me in a week, and if I want it in within two or three days I can pay more. I know someone who applied on Friday and got it on Monday. So, actually, it can be done,” the disappointed applicant said.
Another person who applied in April and was scheduled to pick up her passport in May is also yet to get it, a situation many applicants are faced with currently.
“We have been experiencing shortage of passport booklets for the past three months. Before the shortage, the system was working well; but now printing of passports, whether regular or expedited, has been halted.
“But it depends on you. Even if you want it today, you will get it. Initially when the shortage of booklets began, we could do it for GH₵500 within two weeks. I even printed one yesterday for GH₵400,” said a ‘passport contractor’ who offered to push an applicant’s passport to be printed in days.
The online passport application system
Currently, in Ghana the cost of acquiring a passport is GH₵50 for regular which takes up to 15 working days, and GH₵100 for express application – which takes up to 10 working days to be issued.
The online passport application system was introduced in December 2016 to give Ghanaians the convenience of applying for passports without stress, and to bring some sanity into the service.
The online process is expected to run concurrently with the manual system for a period, after which the manual system will be discarded.