Member of parliament for North Tongu and ranking member on parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has called on the foreign affairs ministry and the passport office to clear backlogs and allow the automated system to work to avert the intrusion of agents, otherwise known as ‘goro boys’ from subverting the process.
According to him, the foreign affairs committee has been meeting the passport office and the ministry on the matter due to numerous petitions by clients on the backlog.
Reacting to the foreign affairs minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey’s criticism of passport office employees engaging in unscrupulous activities in the administration of passports to Ghanaians, he indicated that people who have applied for more than a year have made complaints of not receiving their passports, which has fundamentally led to the backlog of some 11, 0000 passports yet to be issued to customers.
“So, to address this matter once and for all, you need is to clear the backlog and reverse to the full automated system, where the human discretion is eliminated – we don’t have any human interface. Let’s clear the backlog and allow the automated system to work so that things like that based on what the computerized system says should be the order. I think that is how to resolve this matter moving forward.”Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
Mr Ablakwa revealed that the passport office prior to this, justified the delay as due to some impediments encountered by vendors because of COVID. To this end, he explained that the passport office as a solution, presented a roadmap for the backlog to be cleared.
“It does appear that the backlog has not been cleared and that is what is leading to people then trying to take advantage of the fact that people are frustrated and there are so many people in the queue, and some want to come ahead of the queue and that is what people in the system together with their agents are exploiting.”Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
Commenting on the disposition of the foreign affairs minister at the passport office by dismissing staff who have worked for more than a year, Mr Ablakwa noted that the minister has carried out an “emotive ministerial reaction” of which she cannot be faulted. Nonetheless, he emphasized that the action of the minister raises a number of issues, especially on the leadership at the passport office.
“… There is a director at the passport office, did it have to take the minister to decide from her ministry to engage in that open outburst and for the minister to start dismissing people on site and all of that? It tells you that there is something fundamentally wrong, the leadership at the passport office falls short of the leadership requirement that you would expect to see for such a sensitive position. This morning, the director of the passport office and all those in management must be answering questions why it had to take the minister to descend on the passport office and engage in that open intervention and almost altercation.”Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
Call for disciplinary committee to investigate matter
Furthermore, Mr Ablakwa who doubles as a ranking member on parliament’s foreign affairs committee expressed his challenge with the minister’s approach in how she dismissed people on site. He however stated that Ghanaians want to see decisive leadership and that’s why he is “restraining myself in not criticizing or condemning the minister”.
“Because when you have people you have put in charge not doing their work, that’s what it will come to and perhaps, the minister has taken notice that certain directors were not doing their work properly and could have reshuffled or reassigned them elsewhere. But the other challenge relates to the sweeping dismissal – if care is not taken, innocent people could be caught in the fray.”Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
Meanwhile, Mr Ablakwa emphasized the need for a disciplinary committee to carry out some independent investigation into the role of those the minister met with. He explained that this is necessary to avoid the wrong people suffering the repercussions of acts borne by the culprits.
“Are we sure that all of them are involved in all of these underhand dealings, bribery, corruption and all the untoward conduct that the minister is angry about? Is it not possible that some innocent people may have been caught up in the crossfire? So, I will still want a certain due process to be carried out, so that those who are guilty, yes, let them fall on their own fault, but those who are innocent should be allowed. It will not be fair and just to punish people because of the sins of others when they have not been part of the mess.”Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa