We have come far with passport acquisition as Ghanaians. So also have we come very far with the transformation of the Ghana Passport, a legitimate right of every Ghanaian citizen.
I acquired my first passport in 1975. Within that period of 44 years, I have five expired passports plus the current biometric one renewed for five years in 2017. The reason why I do not have a pouch full of expired passports is because we enjoyed 10-year passport validity in the early stages. That was good and very convenient. So one is baffled as to why we are stuck to five- year validity when the rest of the world has moved on to 10 year validity?
Ten year validity
A 10-year validity of the Ghanaian passport makes a lot of meaning in our current circumstance, whether applying in Ghana or abroad. One would have thought that having come thus far with a biometric passport to meet the recommended standard of the international Civil Aviation Organisation; we should also go back to 10-year validity, a current international practice.
My experience in early 2017 when I had to renew my five-year biometric passport gave me nightmares. It was a tiring process moving from one location to the other and office to office with very long waits. I was baffled because the impression created was that applying for a biometric passport and more so renewal was quite easy and straight forward.
Paying extra fees for a fast track processing of one’s passport is also a mockery. I have met people who decry the current process in relation to paying extra for fast track processing. Even though they paid for it, their passports were never released at the time they needed them.
We have succeeded in creating needless incumberances for ourselves and that does not help the process. In any case, since we are using biometric information which would hardly change in 10 years, why can we not rely on those information and work towards a more realistic 10-year validity?
I learnt earlier in my professional career that in effective management, one must learn to take out rigours and operate in an environment of simplicity and effectiveness. Rigours we surround ourselves with tend to make us unproductive and they tend to inhibit progress. The fact is that in our current passport acquisition or renewal process, a lot of the human contacts in the system are needless and could be eliminated to make the process transparent and smoother. Whether at the Passport Office at Ridge or the one near the Tema Station, the human interface should be minimal and so also the crowd that troop to those offices and wait on ends. It is a clear wastage of productive man hours for both the applicant and the officials of the passport office.
Practice in other countries
Many countries, including some in our own sub-region have moved on to 10 year passport regimes. Surely, the benefits of a 10 year passport would far outweigh that of five year validity. Administrative wise, the efforts put in by the passport office to process passport documents do not have to be repeated within that short five years.
We would be cutting down on printing and other procurement costs which could bring down the cost of acquiring Ghanaian passport. The wastage of man hours for both the applicant and the staff would be less and the office could better organise themselves to process passports within the shortest possible time. The bureaucracy that we are experiencing both for applicants home and abroad may be lessened.
One cumbersome thing with the five -year validity for regular travellers, especially for those who travel often to Europe and North America is the possession of two passports each time they travel because of valid visas issued in both the expired and the current one. The five or 10 year visas issued by some of the Western countries means that at any given time, the regular traveller would have a valid visa in an expired five year passport.
We could make life much simpler and convenient for ourselves by learning best practices from elsewhere. Sincerely, the current validity of a five- year Ghana passport should be looked at once again.Let us revert to the 10 year validity which we enjoyed some years ago. It is much more convenient.