Promise Kept: Foreign Ministry Reduces Passport Price -Launches major reform to ensure accessibility and integrity

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Liberia, His Excellency Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr. has assured the Liberian people that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under his leadership will work tirelessly to further strengthen the integrity and credibility of the Liberian passport. Minister Kemayah described accessibility to and integrity of the Liberian Passports as fundamental human rights, noting that he will ensure passports are accessible, affordable but with enhanced integrity.

The Liberian chief diplomat stressed the need for Liberian passports to be affordable and accessible to allow its citizens travel freely abroad without hindrances.

According to a Foreign Ministry release, the Liberian Foreign Minister spoke on Thursday, at the launch of the Passport Reform Initiatives and Signing of the Amendment to the 2017 Passport Extension Contract between the government of Liberia and Buck Press Limited.

The ceremony, which witnessed signing and exchange of notes between the Liberian Government and the Buck Press Limited, was attended by high profile dignitaries including the Chief Executive Officer of Buck Press, Mr. Eric Kofi Buckman, who signed for his organization.

Making remarks on behalf of the Managing Director, Mr Eric Kofi Buckman of Buck Press, Mr. Francis Nyanin who is the General Manager expressed thanks  for the extension of the contract and promised that his institution will fully live up to their portion of the agreement for the New Price of the E-passport for the Republic of Liberia.

He said for those who were not familiar with the history of the Passport contract between the Government of Liberia should please allow him to introduce briefly the history of the project.

He said the project started immediately after the Liberian Civil War when only few investors were willing and determined to come to Liberia to invest.  “In fact, one of our partners, an European Company, withdrew from the Consortium for reason that they can only invest in Liberia on condition that the Government of Liberia provides Sovereign Guarantee as a precondition for investing in Liberia ”, he said.

“Despite these, Buck Press took a bold decision and unilaterally invested in a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) Project that cumulatively we are witnessing today for the launch of the new price of passport booklets”, Francis said.

“Let me highlight that without the able leadership and support of His Excellency President Weah and the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, today’s event or the launch of the new passport price could not have taken place and we say a BIG Thank You for your able leadership”, Francis said.

The General Manager said, during the recent negotiation, the remarkable and effective negotiation skills of the Honourable Minister has resulted in additional revenue of USD4.5 Million to GOL under the contract.

Francis said Minister Kemayah was able to reduce the price of passport booklets to US40 across the board without touching the revenue due to GOL under the contract and at the same time passing on the reduction to Buck Press with an extended period of 6 years for Buck Press to recoup its cost of investment.

As part of our social corporate responsibility under the Contract, Buck Press has extended the waiting area (palava hut) and constructed five (5) passport applicants’ interview booths to ease the process of interviewing potential applicants. The same booth shall be used later in the day for passport distribution centres.

Francis said four (4) new scanners, five (5) office chairs, four (4) high-speed desktop computers, two (2) fire extinguishers, three (3) canon cameras and a customer service phone and an extra vetting station, have all been provided to support the Passport Bureau.  “We are also enhancing the CCTV monitoring system by extending Monitors to both the Minister and the Deputy Minister’s office and adding more cameras to cover all areas of the Passport Bureau.  The Ministry has provided a dedicated room and efforts are under way to set up an ultra-modern dedicated CCTV Monitoring station within next week.     All these are to ensure high-level security at the Passport Bureau, Francis said.

Francis assured the Government of Liberia of their continued and reliable partnership and hoped that what was witnessed on the day of launching would be a win-win situation for both parties now and in the future.

Officials who signed on behalf of the Liberian Government include Foreign Minister Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr.,  Justice Minister Hon. Cllr. Frank Musah Dean; Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs, Hon. Samora P.Z. Wolokolie and the Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) Hon. Thomas Doe Nah..

Speaking at the program, the Liberian Foreign Minister disclosed that under the amended agreement, the Liberian Government negotiated with Buck Press to reduce the price by 20% of the Liberian Passports in various categories with a plan to improve service delivery to ensure that passports remain affordable and accessible for Liberians both at home and in the diaspora.

He said the ordinary Liberian passport price has been reduced from 50 to US$ 40.00, express reduced from $100.00 USD to $ US 80.00USD; while the price of passports issued to Liberians abroad is now reduced from $ 200.00 USD to $ US 160.00; effective Monday 23 November 2020. Foreign Minister Kemayah also asserted that the prices of diplomatic, Official and Service passports are also reduced to $ US 40.00 instead of $ US 50.00, respectively.

According to the Liberian Foreign Minister, the reduction in the price of passport is in support of President Weah’s vision to reduce hardship on the Liberian people and efforts by his government to reform the Foreign Ministry, especially the passport department. It can be recalled that the President announced reduction in the price of passport when he delivered his second State of Nation address in 2019.

Foreign Minister Kemayah further disclosed the wait time would be reduced. He said that applicants for the ordinary passports are expected to obtain their passports within seven 7, while Express service applicants will obtain their books within 8 hours after processing and payment are concluded.

Minister Kemayah said the move by the Foreign Ministry to embark on the reform is to ensure quality service delivery and improved customer service at the Passport Bureau. The Minister emphasized that President Weah’s agenda and desire is to transform Liberia and improve the living standard of its citizens, under the President’s pro-poor agenda. According to Minister Kemayah the reduction in price will not affect the revenue base of the government of Liberia. Minister Kemayah said the reduction in price would officially take effect on midnight Sunday of November 22, 2020.

The Liberian Foreign Minister also informed the audience that Buck Press, through its corporate social responsibility has agreed to assist the Foreign Ministry to install CCTV infrastructure for effective monitoring of movement of people coming in and out of the passport areas, so as to unearth frauds or illegal transactions that might take place during the issuance of passports.  The Minister noted that to further upgrade the bureau of Passports and Visas, personnel assigned at the bureau would be uniformed with batch number attached to them for the purpose of easy identification.

The historic event which took place in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was graced by the Foreign Ministry family, key government ministries and agencies, including the Ministries of Finance & Development Planning, Justice, and LRA, as well as members of the diplomatic corps including United Nations Resident Coordinator Dr. Kingsley Opoku- Amaning, and representatives from ECOWAS and the Contractor, Buck Press Limited.

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