By Sam Doku, PhD
Ghana’s Consular and Head of Chancery have described as baseless and unfounded allegations that some staff members at the Embassy shirk their duties and responsibilities in the issuance of visas to Ghanaian Americans.
Speaking at the Embassy last week, Mrs. Ama Darko, the consular, noted that as many as 150 applications for visas are received daily for processing, but the reason for the tardiness comes largely from applicants that neglect to abide by the rules and regulations of the Embassy by including return envelopes in their applications so that after processing, their passports would be mailed to them.
“Worst of all, some also refuse to include their telephone numbers in the applications so that in case of any problem, we would call them. That’s why we have clearly stated on the Embassy’s website that the best way to communicate with us is by email,” Mrs. Darko said.
She elucidated that in an arena where they process visas manually, it is incredibly difficult to be responding to questions on phones on regular basis because that will entail going to fetch large notebooks to look for entries before answering. That obviously is untenable.
To help allay fears of possible delays in future, Ambassador Joseph Henry Smith affirmed the installation of biometrics as early as this month or latest, by the end of the year to process visas.
However, to ensure an effective and efficient processing of visas, biometrics must be accompanied by automation, but the Ambassador revealed that the Embassy does not have the means to install the biometrics and automation simultaneously, so he is appealing to well- meaning Ghanaian Americans who are in capable positions to come to the aid of the Embassy.
“The Ambassador is right. Installation of biometrics alone won’t effectively eliminate the delay because although we can do the finger-printing and photos biometrically, we still have to enter the data manually. As a result, we need automation to speed up the process,” said Mrs. Darko.
In an atmosphere where perception is sometimes everything, Mrs. Darko noted that the Embassy is working assiduously to ameliorate its image following many unfair accusations. “The conditions under which we are working are not perfect, but we are doing our best. The Ghana Embassy in Washington, DC serves Ghanaians in the entire diaspora, so we need people to visit our website before they apply for visas. That way, they will be able to familiarize themselves with the process before applying for visas,” Mrs. Darko continued.
Ambassador Smith is particularly wary of the distortion of Ghana’s image, so he has decided to organize an outreach program for travel agents to educate them in an attempt to stem the tide. The need to educate travel agents who some frustrated Ghanaians turn to in order to help them apply for visas for a fee establish those agents as middle men, so if they don’t have any good impressions about the Embassy and Ghana, then it could lead to half-truths and distortions about the nation.
“Ghana is doing a lot to help ensure there is peace in the sub-region and on the continent,” said Ambassador Smith. “Recently there was unrest in Burkina Faso, and President John Mahama helped in ensuring that security, stability, and peace returned to that country. Indeed, since independence, Ghana has been the first among equals to lead other African nations to forestall impending unrest or to combat notorious diseases like Ebola.”
Head of Chancery, Mrs. Amma Gyekye-Twum called out those complaining and noted that the ranting could be related to past experiences that occurred a long time ago and advised them not to be peddling murky remnants of discomfort as current reality.
Also present at the meeting were Deputy Ambassador Skido Achulo and information officer Jojo Bruce Quansah.