The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, on Monday, lashed out at persons currently on secondment at the various passport offices across the country. She alleged that their prolonged stay at the post is contributing to the escalation of corruption in the passport-acquisition process.
The foreign affairs minister expressed frustration regarding an alleged conspiracy involving certain employees of the Passport Office, members of the security services stationed at these offices, and intermediaries commonly referred to as ‘goro boys’ and ‘goro girls.’ This scheme, she said, had resulted in the exploitation of passport applicants through exorbitant fees.
Mrs Botchwey indicated that an ongoing investigation had captured the involvement of such persons who were manipulating the online passport system for personal gain.
To diminish the degree of familiarity among individuals on secondment, she also dismissed all those who had been attached to the passport offices for more than a year and directed them to vacate the passport offices by Monday, August 21, 2023.
“Everybody who has been here for more than one year, from Monday on, please do not come back because you have been changed. We want to restore some sanity. Every time politicians are corrupt, meanwhile, it is some public civil servants who will do things that shouldn’t be done, and then they will be put on politicians,” the Foreign Affairs Minister said.
Persons on secondment to the Passport Office include officials of state institutions such as the Police, National Investigations Bureau and the Ghana Immigration Service.
With passport acquisition becoming expensive by the day, the minister accused conspirators of impeding the government’s digitalisation efforts, which she said was meant to bring efficiency into the passport-acquisition process.
Fact-Check Ghana has verified the claim and presents the findings below.
Claim: “The Vice-President has led the digitalisation effort with my support and all of my officers to put in place an online system.”
Explanation: Although Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has been credited with the government’s digitisation effort and the rollout of the national property address system, and paperless port, among others, the online passport system preceded him.
Media reports (here and here) show that the online passport application system was first announced in February 2012 as part of an e-government project to improve the state’s service delivery to the citizenry.
However, it was not until September 2015 that the state-owned Daily Graphic reported that an electronic passport acquisition system would start in 2016 to minimise the incident of passport racketeering. Subsequently, the system was launched on December 19, 2016.
A Daily Graphic report of December 20, 2016, stated that “under the new system, actual passport processing times and delivery deadlines would take fifteen working days for standard applications and five working days for express applications.”
“The online passport applicant must essentially have all supporting documents available and log on to www.passports.mfa.gov.gh or www.passport.mfa.gov.gh and select a mode of payment, fill and submit the form online and proceed to the Accra Passport Application Centre to capture their bio-data on a chosen appointment date,” the newspaper reported.
The only difference between the current system and the previous one the Mahama administration rolled out is the payment option. While the present system accepts payment options, including bank cards, mobile money, scan and pay, and bank payment, the previous one allowed only bank payment.
From the above evidence, the foreign affairs minister’s claim that Vice-President Dr Bawumia initiated the online passport application system is false.