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14.03.2006 General News

Passports processing now in seven days - Akufo-Addo


Accra, March 14, GNA - The processing Ghanaian passports now takes seven days instead of two weeks, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said on Tuesday. The reduction in time is part of a grand plan to eliminate "connection men" and irregular means that often result in the production of fake documents.

The Foreign Minister, who was speaking in Accra when he took his turn at the Meet the Press Series under the auspices of the Ministry of Information, said it was anticipated that the time would soon be reduced to three days. He said the Ministry had almost concluded arrangements for the issuance of a new generation of Ghanaian passports with greatly enhanced security features that would prevent forgeries and substitutions associated with the current passport regime.

In this connection, he said, within the constraints of the budget allocation, a number of activities such as the phased provision of computerized document processing facilities, online application procedures, travel advisory and modernization of consular receptive facilities of Ghana's missions abroad were being carried out. He said the gradual registration of Ghanaians abroad under privacy rules would be undertaken while umbrella national associations would be activated with increased interactions between them and the Ghana missions abroad.

Asked how the Government intended to facilitate the registration of Ghanaians abroad and their subsequent voting in national elections, Nana Akufo-Addo said there was no data on total figures for obvious reasons that some persons entered those countries illegally while others did not report to the missions when they arrived there. He explained that it was rather juvenile for anyone to think that personnel in the foreign missions could be influenced to tilt election results in favour of one party.

"Judges and Commissioners of the Electoral Commission were appointed by the previous NDC regime but are still in office delivering on their jobs without fear or favour. "It is important for us to know that these are persons, who can be trusted to undertake their roles diligently. We are, however, waiting on the Electoral Commission to come out with the modalities for implementation of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Law." He said countries with less than the 52 missions abroad, as Ghana has had, were capable of organizing elections for their nationals abroad to vote without any major problems adding that Ghana was capable of doing better. Nana Akufo-Addo said the Ministry raised annually an average of five million dollars from fees and other charges at the consular missions.

The Foreign Minister said it had obtained the permission of the Public Services Commission to recruit more staff to enhance human resource capacity of the Ministry to help to realize the nation's development agenda and aspirations of the people. He said the process, which was ongoing, would also see the revival of certain scholarships that the Ministry used to have to enhance the capacity of Foreign Service officers. He said during the year the Government would pay attention to the development of ICT to support the computerization of the business processes at the Ministry.

Nana Akufo-Addo said the Ministry was sourcing funds to construct a new office complex opposite the Airport City area as well as the renovation of several properties owned by Ghana abroad, where due to years of neglect, "we are under pressure to comply with the local building codes of our host countries and to maintain the investment values."