Hannah Tetteh, Minister for Foreign Affairs
After disturbing reports of the shortage of passport booklets at the Passport Office in Accra last week, the Passport Office has indicated it will take delivery of approximately 5,000 passport booklets today to clear the huge backlog of applications.
According to Eric Odoi-Anim, the Director of Passports at the Passport Office in Accra, the new consignment would hopefully clear the backlog that had led to long queues and public outcry.
Last week, dozens of applicants besieged the Passport Office and a few of them, who spoke to DAILY GUIDE, expressed dissatisfaction with the apparent shortage of passport booklets and the consequent delays in getting their passports.
It is expected that the new delivery would last for about three months in supplying applicants in Accra, the busiest Passport Office nationwide.
DAILY GUIDE gathered that on average, about 1,500 passports are issued monthly in Accra.
The Passport Office was last week alleged to have been hit by severe shortage after the local supplier and printer, Buck Press refused to extend its usual credit line to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the government failed to settle its outstanding bills.
The lull in the supply of passport booklets forced the Passport Office last week to ration issuance of passports, serving only applicants who needed them for special emergency travels.
According to the Director of Passports, at no point had there been shortage of passport booklets.
‘These booklets are already in the country, so there is no talk about a shortage,’ he said, adding that the seeming ‘dwindle’ was purely an administrative problem.
He conceded that the apparent challenges may have been partly caused by the cumbersome bottlenecks involved in passing the booklets through several state agencies including the National Security, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Bureau of National Investigation (BNI), among others, before they are stored in a Customs Bonded warehouse for onward release to the Passport Office.
‘What has happened is that we had an internal reserve, which we noticed was dwindling so we requested Buck Press to bring in some more which Buck Press did, we now have 750,000 booklets which have been in Ghana since February/March,’ Mr. Odoi-Anim told DAILY GUIDE.
‘When our stock got critically low, we asked for a release from the customs bonded warehouse but there were procedures; administrative, financials to be met so these of course will take some timewe decided that until we are sure that all these procedures are gone through, we cannot operate at the optimal level we use to operate daily, so we would be reducing,’ the Director of Passports told DAILY GUIDE last Friday.
Meanwhile, sources close to the local supplier indicated the company was unhappy with the inability of government to meet its financial obligations.
Per the arrangement with Buck Press since 2008, the company is responsible for supplying, printing and providing passport equipment to the Ministry at a pre-arranged financing mechanism.
‘It is an agreement we have: you [Buck Press] supplies, you print, you maintain, all put together at a cost for which government pays you by a certain arranged mode of payment. It’s not like everyday when you bring [the passport booklets and equipment] we pay you. The total contract price is X to be paid in installment basis,’ Mr. Odoi-Anim explained.
By Raphael Ofori-Adeniran
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