The Passport Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stepped up the processing of passport to enable passport seekers to get their passport on time and with no further embarrassment or delay.
The division was on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 processed over 130 passports within the period of 4 hours, something that really impressed those who went through the process.
The sharp improvement in the process is a welcome development to many who claim that they had lost hundreds of dollars to bogus individuals within the passport division who had begun to exploit applicants’ limited knowledge about the process of obtaining an ECOWAS biometric passport.
The Daily Observer caught wind of the situation and broke the story coupled with an editorial on Tuesday, prompting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to respond quickly by fixing the situation and issuing a public response.
Though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not confirm nor deny the Daily Observer report, it issued a statement insisting that the Ministry has “a strong policy in place to discourage employees from extorting money from passport applicants. There are clear notices placed all around the Division of Passports indicating the processes of obtaining a Liberian passport, the fees charged and the duration it would take to receive an ECOWAS Biometric Passport.
The Ministry said it was taken aback by the Daily Observer report, and wondered why the newspaper did not report alleged acts of extortion and corruption to the passport director. The Ministry however ignored the glaring fact that, prior to the publication, there were long lines of people grumbling about the delays with their passport applications, especially when the entire process should take no more than three days.
A full expose on the corruption in the passport division is coming soon for the benefit of the Ministry, which appears to be in denial, and for the general public.
“The Division always encourages applicants not to give money or bribes to anyone who is performing his/her official duties and preferably encourages that an applicant goes through the process in person,” they said.
“Passport officers, including the Director of Passports, are identified by their uniform, and once in the uniform of the Passport Division, the person is considered an employee of government and is paid to render services to the public where assigned “free of charge”.
To the surprise of those who went through the process on Wednesday, the Director of Passport announced that 50 of the passports processed on Wednesday would be delivered by March 24, 2016 at about noon.
She added that the remaining applicants will receive their passports by 12 p.m. today Friday, March 25.
She, however, warned passport seekers to bear patience while going through the process of obtaining their passport.
She said, besides the US$ 50 paid for passport there is no other fees attached, adding, “the application form is absolutely free and if you don’t understand anything, please contact me, but give any money to anyone.”
There was no difficulty in the distribution of application forms as has been complained by many passport seekers before,” one of the applicants said.
This reporter saw a long cue of passport seekers, waiting for form, but within 30 minutes time, all of them got their forms and left.
For those living in the US and other places around the world, she said, US$ 205 was charged for passports and the processing can only be done in Liberia, before it can be sent through DHL to the Liberian embassy for those who applied to get their passport.
“We encourage passport applicants to report all such criminal behavior by pointing out persons engaged in these unwholesome acts to the authorities of the Division of Passport for immediate redress,” the Ministry says. “Likewise, we also encourage clients to follow the processes outlined on these official notices spread around the Passport Division for easy reference; in fact undertake the task themselves.
“Let us once again state to passport applicants: The fees for ALL Liberian ECOWAS Biometric Passports issued in Liberia remains US$50 ONLY. Applicants are cautioned NOT TO pay extra monies to individuals in order to initiate or expedite the process. Kindly feel free to deposit all complaints, recommendations and a telephone number in the Suggestion Box posted all around the Passport Bureau. Any applicant paying additional charges to anyone is doing so at his or her own risk. Please be forewarned.”