A GNA Feature by Julius K. Satsi
Accra, Dec. 27, 2016 (GNA) – It was very laudable to learn that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has launched the Online Passport Application for Ghanaians who desire to obtain travelling documents.
The people who were present at the launch of the Online Application project expressed excitement when they heard the news.
It was indeed refreshing to know that the Ministry had not rejected the pilot project carried out by the National Information Technology Agency started in August 2015.
It is not surprising that Ghanaians are happy about the project, which would relieve them of the hassle they go through in acquiring a document every citizen is entitled to in the first place.
The ritual takes many shapes and forms. It is not unusual for one to wake up early in the morning and join a long queue just to submit documents for a passport.
Madam Hannah Serwaa Tetteh, the sector Minister in her keynote address at the launch in Accra on Tuesday, December 20, said the online application process would run concurrently with the manual system for a four- month period after which the paper system would be discarded.
Main Concepts of the Application and the process
The main idea of the Online Application Service is that one can sit in the comfort of his or her home and apply for a passport by logging in via the Personal Computer, Tablet or mobile phone.
All that is needed is the relevant information provided in the application process as it exists now. Nothing has really changed in terms of details, but the improvement of the system of application.
Whoever needs a passport should initially visit passport.mfa.gov.gh or passports.mfa.gov.gh to open the interface or the website. On the website, one will see two options popping up indicating « Existing User? Login Here » or « New user? Register Here ».
If that is the first time one is one is trying the Online Application he or she will have to register as a new user with a valid and active mobile number as well as email address –optional- to enable him or her to have an account with the platform.
This account can only be created only once by an individual. A parent can have a single account and use it to apply for a passport in the name of the other members of the family.
In creating the first time account, one has to generate a password, which would assist him or her to always log in as a preventive measure to prevent the invasion of personal accounts or personal information.
After the registration of the account, the applicant would then have to select one of the partner banks of the service to transact payment with. The banks include Ecobank Transnational Incorporation, GCB Bank, and Zenith Bank.
The applicant would then be led to select the payment channel where he or she would indicate to use one of the available options as to using VISA, MasterCard, MTN Mobile Money, and or Airtel Money. Vodafone Cash is expected to be added sooner per the Minister delivery.
The applicant would then be required to complete the passport form after, which he or she would be required to select a preferred passport application centre (PAC) from the available list. The PAC is the place one would like to go to the next step of the process.
« The role of PACs will be limited to checking applicant’s details already captured in the system by delivering the supporting documents of applicants, in addition to capturing the bio data of applicants for the passport, » Madam Tetteh said.
There are currently six established PACs, which are in Accra, Kumasi, Sunyani, Tamale, Ho and Takoradi. The Ministry is looking at establishing a PAC in Tema and also holding consultations with Regional Administrative Officials in Cape Coast, Koforidua, Bolgatanga, and Wa.
As part of the process and for authentication reason, one would have to visit PACs for capturing bio-data and also the presentation of the original of some of the document an applicant claim to possess.
The available dates would pop up for an applicant to select the day that would be favourable for one to present the relevant document and also for the verification.
When an appointment slip is ready for printing one proceeds to the final stage.
The final stage of the application is a visit to a selected PAC on the date of appointment with an appointment slip and relevant original documents to complete the process.
It is at this stage that the applicant would have to wait for 10 working days or a maximum of 15 working days for the regular applicant and five working days or a maximum of 10 working days for the express applicant to receive a passport to enable the pursuance of any documentation for travelling purposes.
Something that must be noted about the service is that it only accepts the application from Monday to Thursday and it does not work on public holidays.
Pros and Cons
The positives of this move are so significant that it cannot be ignored because the hassle of having to wake as early as two hours or three hours just to submit a passport application or receive a passport is thrown into the bin.
According to Madam Tetteh, the online service is expected to reduce typographical errors and shorten the data capturing procedures, which are currently carried out at the passport application centres. It is also expected to speed up the workflow for the passport processing and enhance passport service delivery.
It is expected to reduce if not eliminate the activities of ‘middlemen’ who in most cases dupe individuals with the promise of paving the way for the free flow of the application process.
Sustainability of the service
The sustainability of this online application is tantamount to careful observation by the stakeholders and a regular update of security features to always secure the system from hacking and unnecessary damage by any unscrupulous persons.
However the online application service will be meaningless if the nation decides to be carefree about its maintenance, effective and efficient utilisation.