‘No timeline’ on Passport Office decentralization
While he could not indicate a specific location or timeline, Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield said yesterday that the government is actively looking at government-operated buildings to decentralize the Passport Office from its current Thompson Boulevard site.
Henfield’s comments followed the circulation of speculative information on the move on social media.
He refused to deny or confirm those claims.
Asked when the move could possibly take place, Henfield told The Nassau Guardian, “I have no definitive timeline on the move but I have indicated publicly before that we are looking at decentralizing the operations of the Passport Office.
“As you know the Passport Office is not built to purpose. It is not a proper facility for Bahamians to go in and have their passports renewed and to make new applications.
“And, so, we are looking at the possibility of decentralizing the operations of the Passport Office and looking at placing kiosks in buildings that the government currently operates – libraries, post office.
“…Hopefully, we can do that in short order. My chief passport officer, my permanent secretary, they are actively looking into these sites and speaking with other ministries to determine how quickly we can do that.
“We can all agree that the Passport Office cannot continue in its present position.”
Several issues continue to plague the Passport Office, from overcrowding and inadequate spacing to an onerous application process and insufficient communication.
During his contribution to the 2019/2020 budget debate, the minister said in order to counter the challenges, plans are underway to improve the e-Passport system and to install e-pics systems across the country.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently released a new policy on the renewal of e-Passports following complaints from Bahamians that the process had become too difficult and onerous.
In a statement on June 19, the ministry said that effective immediately, people renewing their e-Passports are only required to submit, upon application: a completed application form, the existing e-Passport, a standard passport-sized photo and their National Insurance Board smart card.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications