Monday, 3 April 2017

[GHANA]Complaints Against Ghana’s Missions Abroad Addressed at Toronto Town-Hall Meeting.

The complaints and misgivings that have been raised against the attitudes of the officials of Ghana’s missions abroad have been mounting and very troubling. The Ghana Consulate Office in Toronto is no exception! For a long time, visitors intending to travel to Ghana had to deal with only the Ghana High Commission in Ottawa for all consular-related needs. Being the heartland of the Ghanaian community in Canada, as well as the largest City in Canada, the need was felt for a “branch office” of the Ghana Mission in Canada or a full-fledged Ghana Consular Office in Toronto. Since the commissioning of the Ghana Consulate Office in Toronto by the then First Lady, Mrs. Theresa Kufour in 2002, there have been series of Consul-Generals and staff who have been posted from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Accra to man the Toronto Consulate office. We would hasten to add that some of these officials have performed their duties with respect for the communities they serve here in Toronto. Some have displayed humility and dedication to their work, bearing in mind that they are the face of the Ghana government and Ghana here in Toronto. Others have displayed the exact opposite: arrogance, disrespect and inconsistencies in their policies and attitudes to work. There have been occasions when visitors to the Consulate Office in Toronto have complained bitterly about the poor service and disrespectful attitudes they have endured at the hands of the Consulate staff in Toronto. Some have complained about the inflexibility of the Consulate’s rules. The designated role of all Consulate Generals’ offices is to promote trade and investment from the host City, in this case the City of Toronto, to Ghana. Other Consular services like the processing and issuing of Entry Visas to Ghana are supposed to be a minute part of what the Consular Offices are supposed to do. The application for, and processing of Entry Visas to Ghana has been the focus of much complaints against the Ghana Consulate in Toronto, as well as in other cities in Britain and the US. Not only have people of Ghanaian origin frequently complained of the attitude and work habits of the Toronto Ghana Consulate Staff over the years: there have been even more bitter complaints from non-Ghanaians who have had to deal with this Consulate office. In terms of visa applications, the Toronto Consular office requires a one-week wait time for processing. This is surprising since the main Ghana High Commission in Ottawa has a turn-around processing time of three days or less, if you send in the application by courier. We shudder to think of what at all is in the visa processing at the Toronto Consular office that requires a whole one week to process a single visa application. We have a recent bitter complaint from a client who applied for a visa to Ghana from the Ghana Consular Office in Toronto for an emergency visit to Ghana. He pleaded with the Consular staff for just a day, after waiting for five days for them to issue his visa. They refused, insisting that the regulation is for one week, seven days!! In the end, he missed his flight and had to pay an additional $420 to rebook his flight. Why this inflexibility? Couldn’t the Consular office have charged him an extra processing expedited fee instead of subjecting him to this unnecessary stress, inconvenience and costs? These complaints against Ghana’s missions abroad and the Ghana Consulate Office in Toronto in particular, were vehemently expressed during a recent town hall meeting held in Toronto by the Ghanaian-Canadian Association of Ontario (GCAO) to crown the celebration of Ghana@60 in the city. Addressing issues regarding the difficulties in obtaining Ghanaian visas and passports, the Consul General of Ghana in Toronto, Mr. John Bosco Dery-Kpebesani advised Ghanaian-Canadians living in Canada to see the offices of the Ghana Diplomatic Missions as their very own, and urged them to seek assistance anytime the need became paramount. He said, “As diplomats working with the Ghana High Commission in Canada, we have set rules and guidelines which aid our work; some are based on our discretions and for others, we will have to refer to Accra for more guidelines. In our quest to help serve our constituents or clienteles in getting a visa for an example, we have enrolled an expedient service that enables us to issue visas within a 24 hour period, but I must also stress that, there are specified requirements one will have to fulfill to enjoy these services. “Everything informative regarding acquisition of a Ghana visa and passport are on our website but we have noticed that, some people come to the mission with very aggressive attitudes [to the front desk] which makes it difficult on our part to explain the need to have the needed requirements in accessing these services, although I admit that, the majority of our clients are Ghanaians and in these instances, we are more flexible with these government-issued requirements. However, it is important to state that, we are here as your servants and we will do everything there is to assist our clients in the best possible ways that we can.” He then announced that the wait-time for visa would henceforth be 3 days! We welcome such an announcement and call for a harmonization of the consular services between what obtains at the Ghana High Commission in Ottawa ( the head office in Canada) and the satellite offices across Canada, and more especially at the Ghana Consulate offices in Toronto. The complaints and negative perceptions about the Consulate from the public are getting louder and we are advising and appealing to them to sit up and respond positively to these complaints and concerns. It will be in everyone’s interests for Ghana, for the Ghanaian community here in Toronto, for the image of Ghana and the Consular office, among the general Canadian population and in the interest of the Consulate staff themselves. Photo: From Left, Emmanuel Duodu, Nadia Adongo, Hon. Kennedy Agyapong, Bernand Antwi Bosiako ( Chairman Wontumi) Florence Akunnor, John Bosco Kpebesani.

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