— Launches reform in passport issuance
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to reduce the price of the Liberian Passport, a mandate that is expected to take effect on Monday, November 23, 2020.
Applicants for the ordinary passport will now pay US$40.00 instead of US$50.00., express service which is now US$100.00 will now be reduced to US$80.00, while Liberians in the Diaspora wanting to obtain a passport will pay US$160.00 instead of US$200.00.
Applicants for the ordinary passport are expected to obtain their passports in a period of one week while the express service will be eight hours for delivery on the same day of the process.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayah Sr., speaking during the program making the official launch of the passport issuance reform initiative and the signing of the amendment of the 2017 extension contract, said the reduction is in fulfillment with a commitment to help reform the Foreign Ministry especially the Passport Bureau.
The signing event brought together key government officials and employees of the Foreign Ministry and other international partners.
Minister Kemayah said the new reform will not affect the revenue envelope of the Ministry and government in general, stressing that there will be a new reform that will enhance ‘Accessibility, Affordability, and Integrity that will be efficiently accelerated under his watch.
He promised to ensure quality service delivery; stating that effectiveness will be the hallmark of the Passport Bureau. He said in order for the workers to be effective to improve the process, passport officers will wear a uniform with batches attached to them.
Minister Kemayah requested staff to work hard to ensure that the new reform is enforced to the core, noting “Let’s give the Liberian people the value for their money, let customer service be professionally executed to the letter.”
The Minister said in order to restore integrity in the Passport Division, beginning next week, there will be a CCTV set to monitor movements from the entrance of the main gate to every room within the department, adding that “There will restriction for senior staffs of the Ministry who are not part of the work in the Passport Department. Stay in your office and do the Liberian people work that you are paid to do and allow those responsible for passport to do their work.”
Minister Kemayah said he will ensure that the lost integrity of the passport deportment be brought back.
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Kingsley Amaning, said it is the duty of every state to provide protection for its citizens; a reason he said makes the provision of passport for every citizen a part of human rights.
Dr. Amaning said passport does not only protect a citizen in his country of origin but also allow them to have the same human right protection in other countries.
He called on Minister Kemayah not to only ensure that the passport is cheap, but accessible and timely.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has now renewed a contract with Bob Press, a company that will handle the printing and issuance of passports to Liberians. As part of the social responsibility under the contract with Bob Press, additional waiting rooms will be created including five palava huts, while four new scanners, five office chairs, four high-speed computer, three cameras, and two fire extinguishers with other equipment will be provided under the new reform at the Passport and Visa Bureau.
Francis Nyaning, a proxy for Bob Press Manager, thanked the government for the extension of the contract and promised that they will fully live up to their portion of the bargaining.
According to Mr. Nyaning, the new contract under the “Build and Print Transfer Project” will be extended for six years as several Liberians under the contract are expected to benefit.
It may be recalled that in recent times the passport Department was at the center of discussion surrounding fraud, which has today become a national embarrassment. The fraud has led different nationals to be in possession of the Nation’s highest Passports; something that has generated the debate that some terrorists have possibly possessed the Liberian Passport.
Mr. Andrew Wonplo, former Director of Passport and Visa service, was dismissed by the President for giving out Liberian Passport to foreigners without control, a situation that led the United States of America to deny his family entry.
After his denial, Wonplo disclosed that passports issued under his watch were done with the approval of some senior officials in the George Weah-led government, acknowledging that his action was part of a syndicate to grant diplomatic passports to foreign nationals.
Mr. Wonplo released an audio recording reiterated his innocence, just days after US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo announced his public designation due to his involvement in “Significant corruption.”
The US Secretary of State noted that Mr. Wonplo, in his official capacity at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2018 to 2019, was involved in passport fraud that undermined the rule of law, reduced the Liberian public’s faith in their government’s management of identification and travel documents, and compromised the integrity and security of immigration processes.