Director of Passports, Mr Eric Odoi-Anim has warned that many Ghanaians will not be able to acquire their biometric passports before the set deadline, in view of the slow pace of applications.
He expressed worry that since its inception in April 2010 only 680,000 biometric passports have been issued as at the end of 2013.
Considering the over 24 million Ghanaian population, the 680,000 biometric passports issued is just about 5% of the population.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Finder, Mr Odoi-Anim said almost 20,000 biometric passports were issued in 2013.
According to him, 194,245 Ordinary, 224 Service, and 432 Diplomatic passports were printed in 2013. At the close of 2013, there were 1,127 passport applications pending while 6,378 were waiting for collection.
He said the issuance of the biometric passports has been decentralised as currently the Passport Office operates six application centres in six regional capitals; namely Accra, Takoradi, Ho, Kumasi, Tamale and Sunyani.
Mr Odoi-Anim noted that plans to open application centres in the remaining four regional capitals – Bolgatanga, Cape Coast, Koforidua and Wa – were far advanced and was hopeful these new centres would be operational by the close of 2014.
The Passport Office disclosed that it receives an average of 1,450 applications a day from its six application centres countrywide whereas it produces between 350 and 500 daily.
Mr Odoi-Anim said on busy days his office produces about 700 passports, adding that “some applications are put on hold because they contain wrong or false information.”
He warned that thousands of Ghanaians who would apply for biometric passports close to the deadline risk waiting for months before getting their passports.
Obviously not satisfied with the rate of application for biometric passports, Mr Odoi-Anim said: “I am very sure there is going to be a last-minute rush, which is typical of Ghanaians. This is because Ghanaians don’t make travel plans ahead of time. People walk in here and say they have to travel in the next few days so they need a passport.”
Mr Odoi-Anim however admitted that despite the financial and logistical constraints his outfit faced, it was still working extremely hard to ensure that delays and backlogs in issuing the biometric passports were reduced to the possible minimum levels.
He said occasional breakdown of equipments for printing the biometric passports due to pressure and power fluctuations affected smooth operation. Mr Odoi-Anim said things would have been much better if the office had additional printers.