“In this new system of administration each and every applicant who comes for an interview and application at our department, we have to be aware of the fact that our duty is not to deprive any Sierra Leonean to own a passport in fact it is a constitutional right for each and every Sierra Leonean to own a passport”. These were the words of Chief Immigration Officer Alpha Kholifa Koroma addressing the press just six weeks after taking up duty.
The press conference was facilitated by a member of the Africa analytical media group, Winston Ojukutu Macauley Jnr who are in a process of re-branding the image of Sierra Leone.
The CIO said that when he took over he thought that there was a structure in place that will go in line with the system that should be in operations for the immigration department to succeed. As a result he said, he looked at the areas in the department that was a problem to his administration of which was the passport section.
Mr Koroma explained that from practical experience and before he took over a lot of people complained about how the passport section was run with allegations of how passports were being sold to foreigners illegally amidst allegations of bribery and corruption along with the delay in the issuance of passports. “All of these are very serious issues to address and the first section I chose to address when I took over was the passport section and I believe controls and measures are prepared and we try to make the system work by reviewing the whole process of issuing Sierra Leonean passport right from the time of application and delivery” he said.
He stated that when he took over the office he intimated that he would like Sierra Leonean passports to be issued maximum within seven days and minimum within three days. He explained that the minimum three days should cover the period in which an applicant completes the application form and is invited for an interview provided he’s got the money to pay for the passport which the law says and he or she collects the passport.
“when I have succeeded in putting that system in place, the whole complexion as to the manner and way in which the passports are being issued started changing and people could now come to the immigration and on interview day I will have to address each and every one of them that in this new system of administration each and every applicant who comes for an interview or application will have to be aware of the fact that it is their responsibility to own a passport” he pointed out.
Mr Koroma noted that in the past the immigration department was being looked at “as the custodian of Sierra Leonean passport and that perspective is wrong” he said adding that “it may be just one of the functions immigration is all about. But I can tell you that immigration performs the role of foreign affairs as well because it deals with foreign nationals coming into the country” he stated.
He said he had tried as much to control the influx of agents and people at the immigration department and also have undertaken a robust fumigation of the building while also stressing on the time for work for all workers which is 8:30.
Despite some of the changes he had introduced, he highlighted some constraints one of which he mentioned was the lack of structure which have prevented the creation of certain positions to match up with other immigration departments.