Categorized | Featured, National News

“$200 Emergency Passport Fee to Rid Corruption,” Says Mitchell

Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell explained that one of the reasons for the $200 emergency passport processing fee is to “eliminate any suggestion or attempt to offer money to people on the side” for the advancement of this process.

Mitchell gave this explanation yesterday during a press conference at the Passport Office, where he provided an update on the status of passport processing, which he described as a “deluge” of passport applications, numbering some 6,500 in New Providence alone and over 1,500 in Grand Bahama.

“I’m having people constantly walk up to me and say ‘well you know somebody told me if I give so and so or if I do so and so’ – this is the case. I want people to know that these regulations exist. The fees are there (and) if you require the passport on an emergency basis the fees are there to deal with that. You do not have to pay anyone any extra sums of money and do not do so and no one is authorized to solicit any funding on the side for the production of this passport,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell was hopeful however, that by the electronic passport deadline, November 15, 2015, the backlog would be under control.

At the heart of much of the continuing public commentary surrounding the new passport regulations and vexing backlog is the $200 fee for emergency processing after the effective date of the new regulations announced on July 9.

The government has come under criticism in various quarters for “cashing in” on the processing of passports, which Mitchell has publicly denied.

As for persons who have attempted to pressure the foreign affairs minister into a possible waiver of the emergency processing fee, Mitchell was adamant that the regulations are quite strict and that barring a medical emergency, a ministerial fee waiver was not possible in law.

“Those people who are seeking to put pressure on me personally that the regulations are quite strict, that it is not possible for me to waive the fee in law. It is not possible for me to waive the fee unless there is a medical emergency – that is the only circumstance in which the fee can be waived,” Mitchell said.

He pointed out that the $200 emergency processing fee applies across the board throughout the Bahamas and in Bahamian Consulates and offices overseas.

When asked if applicants are availing themselves of this service, Acting Chief Passport Officer Tinker indicated that to date, the Passport Office has collected in excess of $24,000 in emergency processing fees.

To cope with the huge backlog of passport applications, staff members were brought in from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist the employees at the Passport Office and they have had to work overtime after normal working hours, sometimes as late as 10 p.m.

Mitchell added that an application for overtime funding is at the Ministry of Finance for approval.

“The date for normal issuance (of a passport) is 12 weeks of the date of application and the 48 hour period (for emergency passport processing) begins once approvals have been obtained from Nassau and the same applies to Grand Bahama,” Mitchell reiterated, as he commented on the processing timelines.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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