March 2, 2024

he Herald’s digging into the tantrums thrown by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey at Passport Office on Monday, over what she said were incidences of corruption, has turned to be self-inflicted situation by both the Akufo-Addo government, as well as the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP).

This paper has picked up reports from the Foreign Ministry, National Security and other sources, that the mess at the Passport Office where the traveling document is being sold for GH¢2, 000 and GH¢3, 000, instead of the official price of GH¢100 for a standard service and GH¢150 for expedited service, was created as part of the government’s plan to make ruling party sympathizers eke a living albeit illegally.

The Herald’s information is that, there are state-sanctioned “Goro Boys” operating at the Passport Office who are well known and mostly more powerful than even the officers designated to carry out one particular job or the other.

Artificial shortages are created in terms of passport booklets to get applicants to pay more after the initial GH¢100 and GH¢150 for the application forms.

This paper also learnt that, since 2017, there have been instances where officials had to stand aside and watch the powerful “Goro Boys” have their way during passport acquisition, in order to save their jobs.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, on Monday, August 14, 2023, blamed state agency representatives, including National Security Secretariat, the National Investigations Bureau (NIB) and Immigration Service among others at various passport offices in the Greater Accra region for acts of corruption, especially the illegal fees the passport bookless are being sold for to the public.

Ms. Botchwey, who had stormed the Passport Office, suggested that corruption has become rife there because some of the agency reps, had overstayed at various passport offices in the Greater Accra Region, and she proceeded to verbally dismiss them.

The action, according to her, comes as a response to growing concerns of alleged involvement in illicit activities and corrupt practices that have tarnished the reputation of the passport issuance system.

However, one insider told The Herald that “the issues are not what she is portraying to the public” and that she is also to blame for the mess. Some of the “Goro boys” are NPP boys who are known to her personally.

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“All staff of the passport office, are seconded from the various security agencies and the Research Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs per a letter of transfer for a period not more than two years”.

“Prior to the digitization of the process, the manual processes needed a lot of hands. So each agency had at least four staff to man two booths at the Accra office for each agency under the arrangement that when uniformed personnel from the various services come to the center for application, they are assisted by personnel from the respective agencies posted there to expedite their applications aside the regular application.

Then the Research Department staff were in-charge of some duty points where the passports are issued after printing, the storeroom and one Senior RD officer together with the director of the center who is a senior staff of the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs, who signs the application form to authorize the applicant to proceed to be captured.

National security officers man the gates to the capture room to finally scrutinize the applicants and forms to ensure their integrity before allowing them inside the capture room, and it is at this point that a lot of illegal applicants and foreigners are arrested trying to acquire their Ghanaian passport.

Enter the “Goro boys”.

“These are boys whose unofficial place of employment is the passport offices and the Minister is well aware because some of their boys are her boys”.

The Herald is informed that, sometime in 2017, the Director of Accra PAC, one Mr Boakye , received a letter from the NPP headquarters signed by John Boadu the then General Secretary in which about 30 NPP foot soldiers were “posted’ to the Accra PAC alone to ‘work’.

These 30 individuals were not public servants compared to the ones sent by the state agencies whose letters of posting had definite designations with dates.

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“Under political pressure from this same Minister, a room had to be created for these boys to ‘work’ by extorting money from applicants and having unfettered access to the systems. Some even operated the systems themselves”.

“And falsified things until National security under late Joshua Kyeremeh got interested and stopped some of these things”.

Soon after this episode, the Foreign Minister started writing letters to the Minister of National Security, protesting the presence of these officers and calling for their withdrawal under the guise the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Centre at Teshie in Accra, had introduced a six month rotation cycle for all agencies, thus leaving the “Goro boys” intact to operate.

The late Mr Kyeremeh mostly ignored her because she could not have given him instructions to follow as National Security Coordinator.

Interestingly, some of those officers at the Passport Office, were periodically attacked by men from the Jubilee House and the NPP Headquarters for insisting that the right things were done; this situation, The Herald learnt, has not changed.

“Of the Minister is fuming today, but she is simply throwing dust into our eyes”, another officer said to the paper. Because she knows those who are there legally to work are from the various agencies and those boys who were bracingly posted there from the NPP HQ as “Goro Boys”.

“Why isn’t she talking about those boys but attempting to disgrace and embarrass public servants going about their legitimate duties?

“Prior to 2017, there were people who worked there for 15 years. She has done her part to change some things but she should not abuse public servants for what they don’t do while leaving her own goror boys to have a field day extorting money from the public”.

The slogan of the NPP goro boys is “our government is in power”.

“They have set the precedent and when power changes hand they expect the NDC boys also

Not to show up there to “take over”? Your guess is as good as mine”.

On Monday, the Minister, had highlighted what she referred to as the disturbing trend of overstaying officers purportedly colluding with unauthorized intermediaries, commonly referred to as “goro people,” to exploit applicants by charging exorbitant fees for expedited passport services.

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“First of all, let me say that this is not the first time I have come to the passport office, I have done an unannounced tour of the two passport application centres, but for me, this particular visit has become necessary because of some reports that I have.
“Reports that officers and there are nine or so agencies represented in any passport application centre…these people are involved in illegal activities and when I say illegal activities we know just two days ago the report in Daily Guide that the issue of goro people involved in our passport acquisition process has become rife, it is wrong.

“How can 100 Ghana for standard service of passport acquisition and 150 for expedited service be bumped up to 2,000 and 3,000? I hear they don’t even charge 2,000 now they are charging 3000 and it is wrong.

“But I can say and we all will agree that a goro person is outside the passport office and they need somebody inside to work with, they cannot do it on their own, people are paying 2,000, 3,000 to acquire a passport, why should this be so?

“We are investigating and we have some leads which we are dealing with, and very soon we will be able to have some firm information that we will deal with,” she said.

The infuriated minister added “Listen, this is not something new, we have always said that no agency should keep their staff here for more than a year, and yet this is overlooked sometimes and so I intend to ensure that this is carried out.

“Anybody who has been here for more than a year from Monday please do not come back because you have been changed, we want to bring some sanity, every time politicians are corrupt meanwhile it is some public civil servants who will do things that shouldn’t be done and they put it on politicians.”

 

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