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National ID holds the key

July 5, 2016, 9:35 a.m.

Controversy over voters’ register

-Supreme Court, NDPC affirm

By Elvis DARKO, Accra

“The need for a credible and reliable multipurpose national identification system comprising the relevant data and communication infrastructure that would answer to most of our national needs, whether for electoral, planning or developmental or other purposes, is greater than ever before.

“We think the time has come for the appropriate authorities to respond to this need”.

This is how the Supreme Court concluded its verdict in the Abu Ramadan versus the Electoral Commission (EC) case in which the apex court declared the use of National Health Insurance Card to register as a voter unconstitutional.

The judgement was delivered on Wednesday, July 30, 2014, and two years down the line, nothing has been done and the nation anxiously awaits another verdict from the Supreme Court with 93 days more to vote on November 7, or 124 days left to December 7, 2016.

In fact, in October 2014, the National Identification Authority (NIA), which was set up in 2003, promised to start fresh registration of all Ghanaians under an “expanded registration project” which will issue instant ID cards.

Finance Minister Seth Terkper hinted in the 2016 budget that government would revisit the national identification project this year, but half through the year, no concrete action has been taken.

In an interview with The Finder, Dr Grace Bediako, Commissioner at the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), said a credible national ID system is really the unique system that would bring sanity.

It serves as the singular reference for all government offices and programmes to prevent people from providing false information.

“Things are clearer; there is transparency assured, and it helps a lot,” she added.

According to her, with the national ID card, all potential voters have to do is approach EC and fill a form where the applicant will provide his/her national ID card number.

Using the ID card number to access the required protocols from the NIA database, the EC will then produce a card for the registrant.

Dr Bediako, who is a former Government Statistician, said the national identification system goes hand-in-hand with an effective births and deaths registration system.

“If you don’t have that, a good births and deaths registration system, you will struggle with the national identification.

“Because, by definition, national identification necessitates distinction to be made between who is a national and who is not.

“Because when you want the totality of a database, in the national register, you want everybody.

“You want to know that an individual is a Ghanaian, and if you are issuing card, you will give the person an ID card of a national. 

“And when an individual is a non-national but recognised resident, you give that person ID distinction,” she added. 

Dr Bediako noted that a credible database of the population makes service delivery efficient, especially social protection programmes which are to alleviate certain unacceptable situations of the population.

She explained that, “If we have a central NIA database of the population, then we could grant different levels of access to different institutions and they can check for the information.

“National ID establishes who you are in every sense of the word. Your ID number uniquely identifies you for the rest of your life.

“So it makes so many things much easier. Even crime prevention, it helps.

“When you don’t know people, they can hide anywhere. If we have the National ID system, apart from service delivery, anything that requires authentication of identity and nationality, date of birth, you get it from that system and there are no arguments about it. So, what will not happen is falsification,” she added.

Dr Bediako noted that with an effective NIA biometric database with all the required protocols, Ghanaians would not have to go through several biometric systems for various institutions.  

She explained that what was needed is a data-sharing protocol to facilitate access to NIA data by all relevant institutions.

“So we need to rethink all these systems and bring them together and let it benefit all the institutions, having taken stock of what data protocol each institution needs for the running of their institutions,” she added.

Dr Bediako stated that both NIA and births and death registration need investments, and the NDPC is working towards building the two institutions to deliver service as part of the 40-year development.

GH¢21m invested in NIA already

So far, Ghana has spent about GH¢21 million on the mass registration and card distribution exercises, and instead of getting it right, state institutions such as the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIS), Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and the Passport Office, as well as the Controller and Accountant-General have spent millions on their own biometric data capture, a complete duplication of duty and waste of money.

Currently, only about 900,000 people, out of the 15 million whose data were collected in the last national registration exercise, have been supplied with their national ID cards.

Of the 15 million people whose data were collected, only 9 million were inputted into the database, with only 4.5 million being completed and 2.7 million national identity cards printed.

NIA/IMS PPP partnership

According to NIA, technological changes within the last four years necessitated that data collected in the last national registration exercise be updated, and the NIA in 2012 signed a public-private partnership (PPP) with Identity Management System (IMS) Limited for a pilot project to register eligible foreign nationals living in Ghana.

Based on the success of the pilot project, the NIA expanded the PPP to cover about 15 million Ghanaians.

In readiness to issue instant ID cards to Ghanaians, Intelligent Card Production Systems (ICPS), an ISO-certified full service card manufacturing facility from card fabrication to fulfilment, was expanded.

ICPS produced the instant cards under the Identification Management Systems (IMS) Limited for a pilot project to register eligible foreign nationals living in Ghana under a public-private partnership (PPP). 

The new national ID card project “is an instant issuance system that eliminates the cost and challenges associated with card distribution.”

The system also takes care of the data needs of all stakeholders, including all 10 fingerprints, and would also capture the face and iris, as well as other biometric traits to enhance the security and integrity of the National Identification System.

Additionally, the Ghanacard has been designed to assist persons with visual challenges to be able to use it, using a tactile feature on the card.

The expanded scope, together with the specifications of the system, will enable the NIA to meet the biometric data requirements of all the user agencies.

ICPS boasts of ultra-modern factory and capacity, hosting the expanded AFIS and central site of NIA, which has been developed jointly with Dermalog of Germany, a leader in biometric, together with IDFG of Denmark.

The central site has the capacity to store 400 million fingerprints, 80 million faces and 80 million irises, and it is the most advanced biometric system in the country to date.

The system is designed to store all the current NIA data, enabling nationals to update their already collected data in the first registration or submit new data if not registered, to achieve NIA’s mandate to be the primary referential database connecting the alphanumeric data and biometrics of all nationals to a unique NIA pin number from cradle to grave, to be used by all stakeholders.