Transparency International Bangladesh yesterday said 75.3 percent of new passport seekers had to bribe police for their clearances.
A staggering 76.2 percent of them also had to deal with irregularities and corruption while having their police verifications and document attestations done.
Revealing the findings of its survey titled “Good Governance in Passport Services: Challenges and Doings” at a press conference at its office in the capital, the global anti-corruption watchdog said a new passport seeker had to pay police on average Tk 797 bribe for the clearances.
The TIB conducted the countrywide survey between September 2016 and May this year on 1,453 passport seekers.
In the case of service seekers at the passport offices, 55.2 percent of the participants had become victims of irregularities, harassment and corruption.
They on average paid Tk 2,221, in bribes and to brokers.
TIB Researcher Shahnur Rahman presented the findings.
TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman, TIB Trustee Board Chairperson Sultana Kamal, among others spoke at the programme.
Referring to another study done in 2015, Iftekharuzzaman said corruption and irregularities in passport offices have decreased.
According to the 2015 TIB survey, 77.7 percent respondents said they became victims of irregularities and corruption while getting passports while 76.1 percent said they paid bribes to get the service.
The TIB in its 12-point recommendations yesterday advocated abolishing the system of police verification and attestation of documents for getting new passports.
It said cancellation of police verification and attestation of papers would end the corruption and make the process easier.
On harassment during police verification, the report said that some respondents mentioned that for no reason police tried to find faults in the passport forms and intimidated passport seekers suggesting their involvement in militancy and certain political parties.
The law enforcers in many cases asked passport seekers to go to a tea stall or the police station to pay the bribe or demanded the money be paid through mobile banking channels.
About harassment centring attestation documents, the TIB report said the system was encouraging irregularities and corruption.
Many of the passport seekers were from remote areas and did not have acquaintances in urban areas. Therefore, they have to rely on brokers to get their documents attested.
A section of people with the attestation authority make money out of this, the study said.
Instead of the police verification, the TIB recommended introducing biometric data bank for all citizens, distribution of smartcards, modernising and updating data banks of criminals, and making the data bank interlinked with the passport office and immigration checkpoints.
It said many people did not get their passports by the time mentioned in the receipt given by the passport office.
The report said brokers dominated the insides and outsides of all passport offices in the country and that a section of brokers maintained communication with some Special Branch of Police members and officials of passport offices.
Brokers give a portion of the money they collect from passport seekers to those in the SB and staffers of the passport offices, the study claimed.
“Brokers have area based networks centring each passport office and a section of passport seekers come in contact with the brokers through that network.”
The report said some brokers have the blessings of political and influential people.
The study revealed that although brokers claim that they help passport seekers get their passports ahead of the scheduled time, the study did not find any significant evidence in this regard.
“At least 75.1 percent passport seekers who took assistance of brokers said they got their passports on time while 72.2 percent said they got their passport on time without getting assistance from brokers,” the report said.
According to the study, 27 percent respondents said it took 12 days more than the officially set time to get their passports.
The report revealed that 41.7 percent of the service seekers took the help of brokers or others for getting their passport and among them, 80 percent took brokers' help.
It said the rate of taking brokers' assistance was highest in Sylhet division, 60 percent, and the lowest was in Rajshahi, 20 percent.
In its recommendations, the TIB advocated introducing mobile banking as a medium for paying passport fees.
It also recommended making the passport forms more user friendly and easily understandable and increasing the duration of passport's validity from five years to 10.