PM: Passport Office fix a priority
The government yesterday signed a $30 million loan agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank for the digitization of the public service that will, among other things, seek to eradicate the onerous passport application process.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and several of his Cabinet ministers attended the signing at Melia Nassau Beach Resort for two loans that will focus on funding for the “Government Digital Transformation to Strengthen Competitiveness” and contingency for natural disasters.
The first of the two loans will ensure that government procedures will be streamlined and placed online.
“We will employ a once only policy so that when one government agency owns or has a document or a bit of data, every other agency will be prohibited from requesting the very same document again and again and again,” Minnis said.
“This is ridiculous and unfair. The new system will be designed for interoperability in which requisite data will be verified by the system.
“No longer will the Passport Office or the Ministry of Public Service ask for your birth certificate. And I’m in trouble because I don’t have a birth certificate. I was never recorded, so you can imagine the issues.
“They will not have to ask for your birth certificate or marriage certificate.
“Citizens and residents will only need to carry one card which will likely be a modified version of the NIB card.
“This will be an electronic identification with a digital signature, instead of passport, drivers’ license, etc.
“Online services will be accessed through a single window facility at international standards for infrastructure and applications, as well as with security and service delivery at the forefront.
“The public should also be assured that a significant part of the program will be the upgrading of cybersecurity to ensure that the government’s services as well as your information are protected.
“All government agencies, utilities, quasi-government agencies and even banks on the platform, will be required to adhere to the standards that will be developed.”
Bahamians seeking to renew their e-passports have been finding it much more difficult as they now have to provide certain documents that are proving to be onerous for some.
Acting Chief Passport Officer Siobhan Dean has said the process is not as seamless as it was before because of the inconsistencies in the information on the documents individuals are bringing in, as well as the lack of due diligence done with the e-passport system when it was initially launched in 2007.
Reportedly, Bahamians have been asked to bring in birth certificates of parents and grandparents in some instances. Some have also been asked to redo affidavits.
When asked yesterday about a timeline on the digital revolution, Minnis said, “We would work aggressively as possible because it’s demoralizing when one sees the amount of individuals who are waiting in long lines to obtain their passports, so that must be placed as a priority.
“The government’s responsibility is to improve the quality of life for its citizens, so that will be a priority.”
He added, “I couldn’t give you a specific time but what I can say is it will be done as fast and quickly as possible.”