The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey has voiced her concern over the persistent instances of extortion and corruption within the Passport Office.
Following a visit to the Passport Office, the Minister shared her bewilderment at the unjust practices that applicants are being subjected to by individuals working there. A 2021 report by the UNODC named passport agency officials among public officials who accept the most bribes in Ghana. Twenty-nine per cent of Passport officials were found to be involved in collecting bribes at an average of GHS392 each.
The Minister lamented the fact that such extortion and disrespect were occurring, despite the office’s vital role in facilitating international travel.
Consequently, the Minister has directed employees who have been seconded to the Passport Office not to report for duty starting from Monday, August 21, 2023.
In an interview, she underscored that a comprehensive inquiry had been launched to address the situation. This investigation has uncovered the existence of a network operating in collusion with personnel within the Passport Office.
The Minister expressed her dismay at the common attribution of corruption solely to politicians and her ministry. She highlighted the reality that many instances of malpractice involve civil servants, emphasizing, “It is disheartening that while blame is often laid at the feet of politicians, it is, in fact, some public servants who engage in these wrongful acts, which are then mistakenly ascribed to politicians.”
Notably, she urged those with more than a year’s tenure at the Passport Office to abstain from returning to work as the office undergoes a transformative phase aimed at restoring integrity.
She said, “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 Minister revealed that the current endeavour to rectify the operations at the Passport Office using digitization had been impeded by certain civil servants who manipulate the online application system for personal gain.
Looking forward, she conveyed that the impending issuance of the Ghana card to all citizens will render additional agencies at the Passport Office redundant, leaving only the essential printing department.
In her closing remarks, Minister Ayorkor Botchwey implored Passport Office staff to desist from engaging in extortionate practices. She enjoined them to uphold professional decorum, adhere to high standards of workmanship, and treat applicants with due respect.
Meanwhile, ongoing investigations into the activities of the “goro boys,” who exploit applicants with the complicity of office personnel, are progressing. The Minister stressed that these external actors cannot operate in isolation but rather necessitate collaboration with certain individuals within the Passport Office.
She cautioned that those found culpable will face legal proceedings as a deterrent to others.