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Ablakwa calls on Foreign Affairs Ministry to expedite clearing of passports

The Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration to address the passport backlog as a way to combat the illicit acquisition of passports.

During an unannounced visit to the passport office in Accra, the sector minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, expressed concern over the activities of individuals known as “goro boys.”

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Responding to this issue, the North Tongu MP acknowledged the minister’s efforts but emphasized the need for strengthened systems to address this ongoing problem.

While reflecting on the resurgence of “goro boys,” Ablakwa suggested a two-pronged approach: clearing the backlog of passport applications and implementing full automation to reduce human discretion.

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“Sometimes we even thought that the phenomenon of goro boys was behind us. It is really regrettable that they have found their way back. So, it’s a clear matter. Let’s make sure that the backlog is dealt with then we take out the human discretion and bring in full automation because we have invested in that,” he said.

Ayorkor Botchwey, on the other hand, criticized passport office staff for alleged involvement in corruption-related activities, which has marred the office’s reputation. She expressed her frustration over applicants being extorted by both passport workers and “goro boys and girls” to expedite services.

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The minister highlighted the need to cleanse the passport system, leading to the removal of certain staff members by August 21. She also underscored the importance of addressing corruption within the civil service and public sector.

Ayorkor Botchwey announced an ongoing investigation and promised consequences for the guilty parties. She further called for the dismissal of security service personnel stationed at the Passport Office in Accra who have overstayed their tenure.

The minister expressed her dissatisfaction with the high cost of obtaining a passport, emphasizing that it is unacceptable for Ghanaians to pay such excessive fees.

The National Identification Authority (NIA) has taken action by dismissing 10 employees due to their involvement in misconduct and unauthorized collection of fees from applicants for the Ghana Card. The NIA’s decision comes after an investigation conducted by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service (GPS) revealed their violation of authority regulations.

The report by asaaseradio.com stated that the dismissal followed a comprehensive inquiry process, which included suspending the implicated officers, constituting a disciplinary committee of inquiry to provide a fair hearing in accordance with the law, and the management’s acceptance of the committee’s recommendations.

The dismissed employees were found to have engaged in activities such as soliciting and accepting unauthorized fees from Ghana Card applicants and manipulating the registration system for personal gain. These activities were confirmed to have taken place at various NIA offices including the head office in Accra, Subin Sub-Metro District Office in Kumasi, Western Regional Office in Takoradi, Registrar General’s Department Office at Accra Central, Adentan Municipal Office, and La-Nkwantanang Municipal Office.

Kenneth Agyemang Attafuah, the Executive Secretary of the NIA, emphasized the organization’s commitment to upholding the highest standards of professionalism, accountability, and ethical behavior. The dismissal of the staff members underscores the NIA’s dedication to both safeguarding the rights of its personnel and promptly enforcing the rule of law.

This move is in alignment with the NIA’s goal of establishing a robust, principled, adaptable, and competent national institution that fosters a sense of genuine national pride among its citizens. Attafuah pledged to implement additional measures to prevent such misconduct from recurring in the future.

The report reiterated that the NIA remains resolute in fulfilling its mandate of providing reliable, credible, and transparent identification services to citizens, all while maintaining the highest levels of professionalism and ethical conduct.

Former Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Prof Stephen Adei, has urged President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to issue an apology to the Ghanaian populace for the nation’s current economic challenges.

While acknowledging that the circumstances surrounding Ghana’s economy may have been beyond the control of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, Prof Adei emphasized the importance of apologizing for the deteriorating economic situation.

He remarked on the absence of a crucial aspect of governance – admitting failure. He noted that both the NPP and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administrations have refrained from openly admitting mistakes.

In an interview on Asaase Radio’s TownHall Talk, Prof Adei stated, “We have a problem with governance in this country… People in government, whether National Democratic Congress (NDC) or the New Patriotic Party (NPP), do not admit fault. I think it is a bad practice.”

He emphasized the lack of explicit apologies from the President or the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, despite the challenges faced by Ghana, including external factors such as the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof Adei suggested that the government should acknowledge the hardship faced by Ghanaians and apologize, even if some of the challenges were beyond their control.

Looking ahead, Prof Adei, who also served as the former rector of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), warned that Ghanaians should prepare for further difficulties after the 2024 elections.

He predicted that the next three years, regardless of the election outcome, would bring significant challenges, necessitating the mobilization of citizens to accept the realities ahead.

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