Passport application goes hi-tech
From next year a new era will dawn at the Passport Office, as applications for Ghanaian passports will be done online.
Since the beginning of December this year, there has been an upsurge in passport applications, which has resulted in a stampede at the Passport Office at Ridge, in Accra, with the authorities struggling to control the applicants.
To stem the tide, the Passport Office will roll out its online application system, which is also expected to help check the incidence of passport racketeering.
Members of the public continue to defy calls by the Passport Office to cease besieging the Ridge office which is considered a security zone.
The Director of Passports, Mr Alexander Grant Ntrakwa, told the Daily Graphic that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration was yet to settle on the designated banks through which applicants could pay for the online application process.
A pilot online application system was conducted in the course of this year by the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), during which six persons used the process to apply for passports without any difficulty and had them delivered timeously.
Mr Ntrakwa said the Passport Office was also initiating moves to partner with National Identification Authority (NIA) to build a reliable database for the country.
He explained that as of August last year there was a backlog of 25,000 passports that were to be delivered and that by December of that same year the backlog had been cleared, leaving about 551 that were not immediately printed.
The frequent breakdown of machines also contributed to the delay, but after the installation of new printing machines, the printing process, according to him, had been expedited.
The frequent delay in issuing passports to applicants has been blamed on wrong information entered by applicants in the process of completing the application forms and the Passport Office has been confronted with the situation of applicants bearing the same fingerprints with others, thereby creating difficulties in the system.
In June, this year, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Mr Leslie Kojo Christian, at a news conference recently, announced the opening of regional passport application centres in Cape Coast, Wa, Koforidua and Bolgatanga to complete the regional coverage.
He underscored the fact that the Passport Office at Ridge in Accra was not a passport application centre, except for emergency cases, and advised all applicants to seek the services at the various regional application centres.