Scrap provisions of police verification, attestation and testimonial to improve Passport service
To prevent corruption and reduce many types of irregularities in different levels of passport service, the existing provision of police verification and attestations of documents and photographs should immediately be cancelled as the systems under the provisions entails and encourages corruption and public sufferings, observed TIB in a research report titled Good Governance in Passport Service: Challenges and Way Forward.
The observations were made by TIB on 21 August 2017 in a Press Conference at its Dhaka Office organized to release the findings and observations of the study. In the Press Conference, TIB pointed out the prevailing challenges and irregularities in the passport services and proposed 12-point recommendations to overcome the challenges and improve the overall governance of the service.
Md. Shahnur Rahman, Program Manager, Research and Policy, TIB presented the report findings. Advocate Sultana Kamal, Chairperson and M. Hafizuddin Khan, Member, of TIB’s board of Trustees; Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director; Professor Dr. Sumaiya Khair, Advisor, Executive Management; and Mohammad Rafiqul Hassan, Director, Research and Policy, TIB were present.
According to the report, 55.2 per cent of the respondents of passport applicants (between September 2016 and May 2017) fell victim of irregularities, harassment and corruption while availing passport services in different levels and 35.3 per cent applicants were compelled to pay bribe. The survey found 76.2 per cent of the new passport applicants faced corruption and irregularities in securing police reports and 75.3 per cent of them had to pay bribe or money amounting Tk 797 on average. Analysis of types of harassment and corruption in the service show, 35.3per cent had to pay bribe, 27 per cent experienced inordinate delay, 2.3 per cent faced negligence in duties, and 0.1 per cent faced deception. The average bribe mount transactions at passport offices through illegal means are estimated at Tk 2,221. Besides, 76.2 per cent of the applicants of new passports faced irregularities and corruption during police investigation, and 75.3 per cent of them had to pay bribe amounting Tk 797 on average.
The study also observed slight improvement in different levels of the service process compared to earlier findings of National Household Survey report 2015 where passport emerged as the top-most corrupt among 14 services sectors . The overall corruption has come down in passport offices. The study identified number of remedial initiatives taken by the relevant offices introduced to reduce corruption, irregularity and public harassment which includes organizing public hearings to address clients complaints and improve service delivery, inclusion of five private banks for receiving passport fees online, observance of passport service delivery week to create awareness, introduction of client satisfaction register to record clients' complaints and satisfaction, installation of help desks for applicants etc.
Despite slight improvement and decrease of corruption in the passport services, the study identified challenges and limitations in different levels of the process from collection of application to distribution of Passports. The study further identified a number of institutional limitations and challenges affecting the overall service delivery which includes workload and shortage of manpower, shortage of infrastructures and logistics supports, deficiency in monitoring offices, deficiency in skills and training of officials and employees, limitations in providing information on service and deficiency in enforcement of policies.
The study found that dominance of Dalals (middlemen) in Passport Offices and syndicate of Criminals further worsened the overall service delivery. The study observed significant dominance of Dalal in the Passport offices. According to the survey, 41.7 per cent applicants said they received services from dalals and 80 per cent of them took help from dalals. Of those who took such services, 61 percent did received it in order to avoid hassles and harassment such as standing on long queue, and coming to the passport office more than once; 51.3 per cent took their services for lack of their knowledge on rules and regulation of passport; and 21.6 per cent could not submit the application forms without the mediation of the dalals.
The study revealed that the requirement of police investigation report for getting passport services particularly new passports has been one of the key means of making passport applicants victims of harassment and corruption. According to the survey, 76.2 per cent of the new passport applicants faced corruption and irregularities in securing police reports and 75.3 per cent of them had to pay bribe or money. On the other hand, there are complaints of harassment of the applicants by SB police in the name of preparing police reports.
Pointing to the study findings, Dr. Iftekharuzzaman said ``Although passport service saw some positive changes recently, the overall quality of the service could not yet reach the expected level. Syndicate of criminals is still active in the passport offices.” Besides, service recipients are being harassed in different levels of the service especially in the process of police verification and attestation of application. To simplify the process and save the applicants from the harassment, Dr. Zaman urged the government to drop the provisions of police verification and application attestation.
Mentioning syndicate of brokers at passport offices a barrier to access to smooth service for the people, Advocate Sultana Kamal said ``the brokers couldn’t have operated inside the passport offices without the lenience of the in-house officials. Corruption in the passport offices will decrease if access of the brokers can be banned. Besides, the biggest reason behind the irregularities in the sector is different types of barrier to accessibility of general people to the service.”
To improve governance in the service, the twelve points recommendation of the study also includes, among others, increasing manpower in the department of immigration and passport, introducing mobile banking in deposit of application fee, ensuring adequate human resources, infrastructure and supply of logistics in offices, eradication of brokers activity, ensure smooth access to information, develop, upgrade and link `Bio-metric Data bank’, and `Criminal Database’ with Passport Offices and Immigration Check posts, increase in passport validity up to 10 years etc.
Useful links of Good Governance in Passport Services: Challenges and Way Forward - (Click below)