Graft at Ghana Consulate in New York
by Kofi Ayim
The Ghanaian Consulate in New York City appears to live on a different planet, according to investigations carried out by Amandla. A cross-section of people interviewed decried the arrogance, bad attitude, and poor human relations exhibited to persons that go to the consulate for visas. To add salt to injury, it has been discovered that visa application fees are being misappropriated. According to sources, some unscrupulous employees who work on visa processing have been milking the government of Ghana for the past several months.
Portions of fees accrued from the processing of multiple and express visas are siphoned into the private pockets of some employees at the Consulate. Regular multiple visa attracts a fee of $110 and $140 for walk-in and per postage respectively. Expedited multiple visa (for a supposed turnaround time of 72 hours) attracts a fee of $210 for walk-in and $240 through mailing. A 24-hour multiple express visa is $260 for a walk-in application and $290 through mailings all at the New York Consulate. The scheme employed to milk the government is simple yet multi-tiered. Out of the expedited multiple visa application fee of $240.00 (including mailings), only $140.00 would go into government treasury; the $100.00 pocketed. The scheme basically targets mail-in visa applications and kicks into action where and when the recipient’s name on a purchased money order – in this case the Ghana Mission – is left blank, and thus making room for the crooked employees to execute their nefarious deeds. The forms filled and submitted online are clandestinely downloaded and refilled as regular. The perpetrators are acutely aware and take advantage of the fact that most mail-in applicants are less likely require to enquire demand returned receipts so long as they receive their passports with the required visa. As such, the crooks mail pass- ports back without any re- ceipts. In order not to raise suspicion and eyebrows, the perpetrators are careful, in most cases, to ensure that visa is obtained within the stipulated 72-hour period for expedited application. How- ever, on few occasions and due to other complex schemes, where the 72-hour period could not be honored, potential travelers had been forced to reschedule their travel plans and pay hefty airline penalties. In other cases expedited fee for a single application is utilized as two regular application fees, with the excess or extra fee finding its way into private pockets. Some Travel Agents with knowledge of these practices and victimized by the ongoing graft pleaded anonymity but confirmed confrontations they’ve had with alert clients whose payments and receipts of visa application fees were at variance. Some of these agents both in and outside of New York City have since ceased doing business with the New York Consulate and have rather chosen to utilize the embassy in Washington D.C.
“New York City is nearer, but I prefer to work with the Washington Consulate for obvious reasons. My only problem with the Washington D.C. Office is that no one ever picks up a phone and no one return calls,” said an obviously frustrated Travel Agent. When Amandla followed up with a call and left a message with the Washington D.C. office seeking clarification, an official promptly called us back. But that is after we left a message in the media voicemail. A voicemail directs callers to either follow up with an e mail or wait for a staff that never picks up the phone.
For some unexplained reasons, the New York Consulate and the Washington D.C. embassy have different rules in visa application and processing. While applicants through the New York Consulate have to file electronically, submit, and print a one pager with a unique identification or reference number, that is mailed or walked-in with appropriate fee, the Washington D.C. Consulate prefers the old hard copy applications. Standard single entry visa fee is $60.00 at the Washington D.C. Consulate that excludes postage (to be borne by the applicant) while the online application of the New York Consulate cost $70.00 for walk-in or $100.00 including mailings. Both take between 7 and 10 days to process.
By press time the Ghana Consulate in New York City had not responded to our enquiry of the allegations.