THE ASHANTI Regional Director of the Ghana Immigration Service, Mr. E. O. Lamptey has denied allegations and rumours by sections of the Ghanaian public that the Immigration office issues Ghanaian passports to foreigners.
He stated that there were no loopholes in the system where fraudulent acts could take place as people think.
"So far, the region has not recorded any incident where a foreigner has obtained a Ghanaian passport from this office," he defended Lamptey, who made this denial in an interview with The Chronicle during enquiries into the allegations in his office in Kumasi,noted also that the Ghana Immigration Service had instituted stringent measures in order to avoid fraudulent activities in the system.
"Over the past two years, the number of passport applicants throughout the country and particularly in the Ashanti region has reduced to the minimum due to the new measures which have been instituted," he stressed.
According to him, it had become very difficult for most Ghanaians to acquire passport because they failed to meet the requirements set up by the service. "If even Ghanaians are finding it difficult to secure passports, how much more foreigners? It is absolutely not possible. And I challenge anybody who has evidence of such incidence to come out with it," Lamptey said.
Some of the new measures, he cited, were that all officers had been banned from assisting, sponsoring or preparing passport acquisition for prospective applicants for or without financial gain, no officer apart from those designated by their office and scheduled to handle passport matters should engage in the processing of passport amplifications and under no accounts should an applicant's form be released to district officers or applicants after payments had been effected.
He added that applicants were also mandated to present and submit their passport application in person without any interference. "However, special recognition should be accorded applicants who are minors or those who are overwhelmed."
According to him, there is also a decrease in the revenue collection in respect of passport application, which is due to the measures taken by the Ghana Immigration Service and by the various foreign Embassies in detecting multiple uses of passports to secure visas by some applicants.
"Before then, a prospective passport applicant could secure two or four passports but now, we are able to detect these things," he stated.
The Director said it was not easy for a foreigner to obtain a Ghanaian passport because the acquisition of passports had to go through a number of processes and that the applicants were required to submit the necessary requirements as well.
He noted that the new measures were also meant to check alleged bribery and corruption as well as eliminate middlemen entirely from the field.
"It is in line with this that one of the measures stipulates that applicants should be personally present to submit applications," the immigration Director emphasized.
He, however, hinted that this requirement did not apply to officers at the various ministries who were credited or recognized by the office.
Lamptey disclosed that the passport application had to go through some processes like vetting at the regional and national levels before it is taken to the passport office for further scrutiny.
"Sometimes, we conduct our own investigations on the questionnaire and the requirements of the applicants where there are doubts before we send them to Accra because if we don't do proper investigations and the Director of passport finds out, it poses a great danger to our outfit," he said.
He pointed out clearly that his outfit which is under the Ministry of Interior, does not issue the passports, rather, they are the facilitators who do the groundwork.
He debunked the idea by sections of the public that the number of passport applicants had reduced as a result of the increment of the fee from ¢50,000 to ¢100,000.
Touching on some of the challenges facing the Immigration Service, he said they normally encountered problems such as blurred pictures of applicants, photo substitution, unanswered questionnaire and fogged and fake documents like Birth certificates.
He maintained that in spite of the fact that the resources of his outfit were not to the appreciable standard, they were well equipped and had the manpower to deal with the numerous problems.
Lamptey advised Ghanaians to desist from the attitude of waiting till the last minute before applying for passport, by which time it would be more difficult and hectic The Immigration Officer charged the public to take proper care of their passports since according to him, one has to pay ¢500,000 when the passport gets missing and an additional ¢300,000 when it attracts legal action.