The out-going National Democratic Congress (NDC) is said to be making frantic efforts to award a questionable contract for the production of new passports before President John Mahama leaves office on January 6, next year.
A DAILY GUIDE source has hinted that the policy to bring in chip-embedded passports was supposed to be part of President Mahama’s long term plans for his second term, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is strangely pushing it through and wants it done before the exit of the NDC government.
Interestingly, Ghana is already operating a biometric passport system which is a requirement of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); and many experts are questioning the rationale behind the production of the chip-embedded passports and the speed with which the contract is being secured.
Reports say there is currently about 300,000 passport booklets in stock and that Ghana does not appear to have any problem regarding scarcity of the all-important travelling document.
“We are in a transitional period and I do not see the rush to sign a new contract to put a burden on the new government,” a source wondered, adding, “The country does not also need the chip-embedded passports at the moment since we are already having a biometric system which meets international standards.”
When reached, Grant Ntrakwa, Director at the Passport Office, said his office does not award contracts for the production of passport booklets but rather it is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that has the mandate to ensure that the booklets are available.
He confirmed that there was an ongoing tendering process for the acquisition of the chip-embedded passports, but said his office was not the institution awarding the contract.
He underscored, “We at the Passport Office are only a service delivery point. We take instructions from the ministry and we don’t award contracts for the acquisition of passports.”