I needed to renew my Ghanaian Passport which expires sometime this year. Last Tuesday, I made payment at the Labone branch of the Zenith Bank and obtained my transaction details for completing the online forms. Getting the forms filled was pretty simple, something that requires commendation for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once I had assembled the information required on Wednesday, all I needed was some ten minutes and the entire form was filled. A requirement for an attestation on my profession took a day as I waited for a letter in that regard.
At the tail end of the completion of the form on Thursday, was an option regarding which processing centre would facilitate the process. After some consultation, I opted for the Premium Passport Application Centre located within the Accra Digital Centre. My appointment was for 10.30am last Friday. Unsure about the situation around the place, I googled the location and asked about the place from a friend whose office was also within the compound. The information I received was quite favourable.
Well, Friday came and after passing through the funerals a College Senior, I dashed to the Accra Digital Centre. As I got to the entrance to the Centre, I was impressed about the courtesy displaced by the security staff at the gate. Upon satisfying himself of my mission, he allowed me in.
As I drove in slowly along the neatly paved access roads, I could not but be overly impressed about the facilities in there. It really looks out of place to find within that very busy and noisy enclave of South Industrial Area, this rather modernized compound with about three very long twin blocks, well laid-out parking areas, washroom and all the required ancillary facilities among others. The various blocks had been named after former Communication Ministers including Edward Salia, John Dramani Mahama, Albert Kan-Dapaah, Ekow Spio-Garbrah, etc. The plaque at the entrance had the name of H.E. John Dramani Mahama and dated November 2016 when it was commissioned. How nice it was, seeing names of Ministers from across the political divide!
In my bid to be on time, I had appeared rather early and had to wait for my appointed time. I watched as people trooped in and out to undertake the processing of their documents.
At exactly 10.30am, we were ushered in in batches of fives. The first point of call was a fright desk officer who scanned the printed application form. This took just a minute or so after which I had to go through the scanner before being ushered into a large air-conditioned Hall with an adjoining VIP room. It had about twelve to fifteen or so cubicles fashioned in similar fashion as our banking halls with the applicants seated on typical reception seats. They catered for vetting, biometric details, submission and other functions. There were about eighty to hundred applicants in there.
While waiting for my turn, I was approached by a customer service staff who informed me about the existence of VIP services costing GHC65.00 or so and GHC160.00. Without too much thought, I opted for it and within five minutes, my name was called to begin the processing. Within ten minutes, I had completed the four stages of processing and the application approved. I was then ushered into the Premium Lounge as they called it, a room that was very well adorned with good furnishings to enable applicants save time while experiencing the comfort available.
In that room were three cubicles of six desks for purposes of taking biometric details of applicants. I met four applicants in there who were all enjoying the ambiance while sipping coffee, water, tea, etc. After spending about twenty minutes, I was done. Essentially, I had gone through all the processes within 40 minutes without any external influences. Such was my surprise that when the lady was done, I actually asked, ‘Is that all?’ and we both had a good laugh. I will now have wait for the new passport which I understand should be ready within fourteen days. Once ready, I’d be notified by an SMS, email and on the application portal.
As I pondered over the thoughtfulness in the establishment of the Accra Digital Centre by the Mahama government and the elegance and operational efficiency of the Premium Passports Application Centre (PAC), I was pleasantly surprised how effective and efficient systems could run in this country, if only we allowed them to. I really wished to have taken a few pictures to add to the story but quite unfortunately, they had a clear inscription outlawing the taking of pictures inside.
While applauding this government and its predecessor government for the Accra Digital Centre of the Ministry of Communications and the Premium Processing Centre of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs respectfully, I wish to encourage all other sector ministries to also be that innovative in the improvement of services by the various agencies under them. I understand that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) has also evolved in its service provision but quite frankly, I’m yet to visit any of its outlets since last year and can therefore not attest to that.
Indeed, my dear friends, my hope has been rekindled and I still have faith that if we all could commit ourselves towards realizing that ideal of a Ghana where systems work, where our laws are given full effect and one which has the welfare of the ordinary citizen as its underpinning, we shall all be proud once again of this country.
Ghana shall indeed rise again!
My dear friend,