Frustrations in getting a Ghana passport

by 28/09/2012 13:17:00 0 comments 2681 Views
Frustrations in getting a Ghana passport

The process of acquiring a Ghanaian passport looks uncomplicated on the surface. One needs to purchase a passport application form from an approved point of sale, fill the form and submit it together with relevant documents at the passport application centre.

The applicant is then invited to take a digital photograph and biometric data fingerprints and then the applicant receives a submission receipt which contains the passport collection date. Depending on the type of form that an applicant purchases, it takes about one to two weeks for one to receive the passport.

However, the reality in acquiring a Ghanaian passport is far from what is stated above. Adobea, an undergrad at the University of Ghana, said: “I got to the passport office which is near the Central Business district (Tema Station) at 06:00 hours and I was told I could not submit because they had already received the applications for the day.”

According to this man, those who want to submit application forms need to get there latest by 05:00 hours to be able to be counted among the 120 applications which he said were received daily.

Frustrated Adobea said, “I stay at Kwabenya (a suburb of Accra); what time do I need to wake up to be able to get to Tema Station at 5.00 AM.”

Adobea said she hung around the premises to check if she could be a bit lucky, but since she did not know anybody working at the office, “I had to go back home very disappointed”.

Many applicants for a Ghanaian passport get frustrated the first time due to similar experiences; it has almost become a norm that one must know someone before one gets easy access to the office, otherwise one has to pay extra to get things going smoothly.

A visit by this writer to the passport office confirmed the story. When this writer got there at 10.00 hours, the main entrance where applicants are invited to enable the officers to take the biometric details were locked. There were people sitting under mounted canopies on the premises.

There were those who said they were there for collection purposes, while others were waiting for people; in fact they were waiting for their “connection men” to be able to enter.

There is another door at the back, where “Those who know somebody” pass to see the directors or their cronies. That door is guarded by officials. One cannot easily enter the premises as you definitely need to be accompanied to get through to the hall.

And guess what? In the office, the staff are busily processing the daily 120 forms plus the forms of people who know someone there.

One big question that lingers on the minds of many is why it has become an acceptable norm that in Ghana you either know somebody or you must be prepared to pay extra for a service such as acquiring a Ghanaian passport.

Many seem helpless and ask what can be done about it. And those who try to question the wrong process, people look at them so strangely — perhaps thinking whether they are visitors to Ghana.

Systemic corruption is corruption that is primarily due to weaknesses of an organisation or a process. It can be contrasted with individual officials or agents who act corruptly within the system.

Factors which encourage systemic corruption include conflicting incentives; discretionary powers; monopolistic powers; lack of transparency; low pay; and a culture of impunity.

Specific acts of corruption include bribery, extortion, and embezzlement in a system where corruption becomes the rule rather than the exception.

In Ghana, it seems that corruption is fast becoming the rule rather than the exception. It actually seems unbelievable if one meets somebody who is ready to help without having the intention of receiving something extra apart from what he or she is due. People experience these frustrations in almost every office that one requires a service.

Many persons responsible for providing services in offices use their office to intimidate people requiring their services or extort monies from them, even for doing their legitimate and expected work schedule for which they get paid at the end of the month.

It has become the norm and so perpetrators of such offences do not care a hoot. The question they ask is what you (who are requiring the service) can do to them. Whom do you report such behaviours to? And even if you manage to report, nothing gets done and nothing changes.

Ghanaians hope that those currently campaigning for the high office of president will one day respond to their plight. “There is corruption everywhere” should not be the response.