Opinions Thu, 15 Dec 2016

Let’s stop running Ghanaian foreign missions like village shops

By Prosper Yao Tsikata, Ph.D.

On Monday, November 28, 2016, I visited the Ghana Embassy in Washington, D.C., to renew my passport. After submitting my application with an amount of $180, I was told the one in charge of taking the photographs for the biometric passport was unavailable. I waited for three hours for the officer on that schedule to return to take the photo. Unfortunately, I had to leave without my photograph taken.

I returned the following day Tuesday, 29, 2016 for the same purpose. After waiting for an hour thirty minutes, the officer on that schedule finally photographed me and issued the receipt for collection and promised that the embassy would call me on Friday, December 2, 2016 to update me on collection. That call never was. On the collection receipt, however, December 5, 2016 was scheduled for collection.

I had expected that since the collection date was December 5, the schedule officer might be obliged to honor the stipulated date on the receipt for collection by calling me to update me on the status of my passport. Again, that never was. On December 6, 2016, I made more 10 frantic calls to the embassy to seek updates on my application.

Once someone picked up my call and transferred me to an extension that went straight into a voice mail. Knowing how difficult it is to access anybody from the Almighty Ghana Embassy in Washington, D.C. to respond to your call, I knew it might take another 50 attempts to get through. Thus, I decided to proceed to the Embassy to collect my passport.

I arrived at the Embassy at 12 noon, timely enough to collect my passport or any information regarding it. Again, I was told the schedule officer was unavailable to provide any information on the status of my passport, so I should wait (for how long I had to wait only heavens knew). At 4:00 P.M. (after waiting for four hours), the schedule officer finally appeared to inform me that my passport was not ready, and they would call me when it is ready.

Today is Tuesday, December 13, 2016, I have still not had/heard any information from the Almighty Ghana Embassy. Even though passport and visa applicants are advised to also send emails to the embassy regarding their visas and passports, emails are never answered. I have made over 20 calls to the Embassy this morning and was lucky to get hold of a woman who again directed my call to an extension that is never responsive.

When I pay for services here in America, if the service is labelled expedited, the service is delivered with the speed of Usain Bolt. You cannot take money from me for expedited service and leave me in the cold. Why do I have to continue to be chasing you as if I am asking for a favor from you?

Unfortunately, when we leave our villages in Ghana, and by the kind courtesy of some family members we manage to get jobs in our missions abroad, mostly not by merit but through patronage peddling and cronyism, we still refuse to unlearn our old ways and learn new ways of doing things. Driving from Athens to DC on Sunday, I stopped over in Hagerstown, MD, for a coffee. Since the shop had ran out of coffee and I had to wait for just about five minutes for the coffee to be made, the coffee came as what is deemed as “on the house” (meaning it is complimentary or free).

In the service industry, these examples abound, even at the governmental level, whereby institutional failure to meet deadlines is a matter of process auditing and explanation to the customers. This is how organizational change is either consciously promoted or forced upon the organization by external changes that require organizations to stay competitive.


Don’t get me wrong. I have friends and acquaintances who work for the Ghana mission in Washington, D.C. I could sit in the comfort of my apartment and demand such perks of friendship from them—after all why do we grow nails (I guess to scratch an itching back, as the Ewe adage goes)? But those who know me well will understand that it is not in my nature to attempt to exploit such relationships.

This is not also in any way to condemn one administration in favor of another. In 2004, a cardiologist friend of mine was at Ghana’s New York Mission to the United Nations to thumbprint a document. After thump printing the document, he asked for a tissue to wipe his thump. Guess what the response was from the schedule officer: wipe it in your hair!

The point is that when even we designate these jobs as thank you jobs for party loyalists and family members, lets ensure that we are recruiting the right caliber of family members, friends and loyalists who can learn and implement very fast, so we don’t continue to manage these vital institutions like village shops to the detriment of the large number of our compatriots in the diaspora.

As we await a new administration to takeover soon, I wish to remind the president-elect, Nana Addo Dankwa Addo that the Foreign Ministry in Accra should not continue to be a conduit to for rewarding family members and party apparatchiks.

More so, I believe that if the Minister for that all-important ministry is well-educated, sophisticated, down to earth, and ready to learn and implement fast, the rest will flow from there. However, if we continue with the tradition of promoting party apparatchiks into vital state institutions, the results will be the frustrations our compatriots go through in their bid to access services that are accessible to other Africans in foreign countries on the go.

Prosper Yao Tsikata, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Communication Valdosta State University
Columnist: Tsikata, Prosper Yao