"Absolutely no money to order new booklets," Passport Director says
Irrefutable information obtained by the Daily Observer has confirmed that the Department of Passports at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has run out of passports, thus depriving many Liberians of traveling opportunities.
Some of the applicants, who have become disappointed, informed this newspaper that they applied for the "expedited" process for their books on Monday, June 10 but, on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, they were informed by an official of the Passport Department (name not disclosed) that the department is out of booklets in stock.
"You go and come back Friday, June 14, 2019, hopefully you that applied for expedited passport, your book would be ready," the official informed the disappointed customers.
The director of passport, Andrew D. Wonploe, Sr. informed this newspaper in a brief interview that the passport's impasse would be resolved in the soonest possible time, but an insider in the office said the situation will drag on for at least two to three weeks, "because there is absolutely no money to order new booklets."
The expedited process is a fast track approach to obtaining a passport within a 24-hour period.
Many of the customers, who went to the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday with hopes of receiving their "Expedited Passport," left with dissatisfaction. Some of them told the Daily Observer that passports should be the least thing to be out of stock in any country, especially Liberia, where many of the citizens are leaving the country for various reasons.
"There is a need that President George Weah appoints a 'hardworking' person, such as Madam Mary T. Broh to come and institutionalize this passport department. This particular place should not be out of booklets," some of the irate customers remarked.
According to them, government should hire a foreign-based company to print the Liberian passport. "What is wrong with us is ourselves," one fuming customer shouted.
"The short time Mary Broh spent here, to issue a passport was just a matter of a day," another disappointed client said. "Passports should be one of the least things to worry about as a government, because every citizen needs to have a passport."
"One of problems at this place is that if you do not know anybody in this department, is very difficult to get your passport, because the process is like taking a blood test at a health facility," some of the disappointed customers said.
Inside sources told the Observer that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has run out of passports, because the government reportedly owes the passport printing company an undisclosed amount of United States dollars.
Some of the applicants, who spoke to this newspaper, said they have applied for the expedited passports since Monday, June 10, 2019, but were yet to receive their books.
They have meanwhile called on the government and its partners to improve the passport division to a level where it would meet every citizen's quest to obtain a passport.
Some of the people who came from the rural counties with hopes of obtaining their passports had to return in disappointment.
"People who come from the leeward counties sometimes spend days just to get their passport," one insider said.
During the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the government sought to decentralize some of its activities by establishing county service centers, but some of the centers have remained non-functional.