Issues at Passport Office to be addressed
Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield said that the Passport Office has some challenges but help is on the way.
During his contribution to the 2019/2020 budget debate, the minister said that the Passport Office has always been challenged with providing services in a building with inadequate space.
“The influx of renewal applications due to the 10th year anniversary of the first e-passports coupled with new applicants and persons now renewing their manual passports have compounded the challenges faced,” he said.
“Despite the challenges, staff at the Passport Office remain committed in executing their tasks in an expeditious manner to meet public demand.”
He said to counter the challenges, there are ongoing improvements to the e-Passport system. He said that the Canadian Bank Note (CBN) Company Limited, a leading company in secure technology solutions, was contracted to upgrade the country’s existing e-passport system.
“In October 2018, CBN conducted the user acceptance test at the Passport Office in conjunction with the Treasury to identify challenges that may exist or arise when using the system and to assess the online direct payment process,” Henfield said.
He said concerns and issued observed during the testing were addressed by CBN.
He noted testing of the electronic application process for renewal of adult e-passports commenced on May 13, 2019.
“It is anticipated that the public’s utilization of the electronic application for e-passport renewal would alleviate some of the overcrowding currently occurring at the Passport Office,” he said.
Another issue that plagues the office is the timely collection of completed passports. He said that as of May 22, 1,277 passports had not been collected.
To reduce the large crowds at the passport office, plans are underway to install e-pics systems, which are kiosks to be placed in strategic locations in New Providence and Grand Bahama.
“The installation of these systems will allow persons to complete and submit electronic applications for passport renewals without having to visit the Passport Office,” he said.
“It is anticipated that utilization of the kiosks will significantly decrease the current overcrowding at the Passport Office.”
The government also plans to install the e-pics systems in four Family Islands: Exuma, Central Eleuthera, Inagua and Long Island.