Since the announcement by the National Identification Authority (NIA) to start a totally new programme to provide National ID Cards to Ghanaians and foreigners, questions have been raised about the necessity of such project, especially the decision by the authority to take a loan of US$115 million from China EXIM bank for the new exercise.
Of particularly concern, is the failure of the NIA to render a proper account on similar exercises, which could not bring the desired result.
Indeed, last week, the President of IMANI Ghana, a marketing and PR organization, Franklin Cudjoe, in a 14-point press notice, questioned the appropriateness of the yet-to-be approved project, when moneys pumped into the first project yielded almost no result.
However, the NIA’s Corporate Affairs Department, over the weekend, took time to respond to IMANI’s questions which it described as a “misleading publication”.
The $115 million China EXIM bank, according to the NIA, will be used to complete NIA’s identity management ecosystem, which will harmonize and integrate all existing biometric databases in the public sector, establishment of regional and zonal offices, biometric institute for public universities, procure mobile registration vans, among other things.
The NIA, answered questions on the state of its nationwide registration and distribution exercise it started years ago, various funds made available to the Authority and the registration and issuance of cards to some 750,000 foreigners.
Below are the questions from IMANI and the answers provided by the NIA, and sent to some media houses including The Herald.
National Identification Authority (NIA)
RESPONSE TO MISLEADING PUBLICATION BY IMANI GHANA
ON 7th October 2014, Franklin Cudjoe of IMANI Ghana, made false allegations against the National Identification Authority (NIA), in a widely circulated Press Notice, titled as below:
“Press Notice: 14 issues and questions that crumble the National Identification Authority’s planned
$115m loan for another card registration”
For the sake of the many right-thinking members of the public, and mindful of our responsibility to them, we hereby correct the misinformation by stating the issues as raised by IMANI and responding to same.
IMANI: 1. Concerning the National ID system, all along, we were informed that the Authority was facing financial challenges and hence were unable to distribute the cards or continue the three northern regions. Indeed they have said they owed the people who did the recent work in the Regions. Now what do we hear?
Our lack of money is a well-documented challenge. Our mandate needs funding and It is clear that NIA cannot rely on state subvention alone to discharge its mandate in the face of the pressure on the state regarding resource allocation to aspects of national life. Instead of waiting for state support we have decided to adopt other creative means such as a PPP to fund our activities.
IMANI: 2. All along what the NIA has been saying is they need money to give out the cards, money to pay their staff, money to complete the system in the three northern regions. If they have money, these are what they need to do.
We refer to our response above. Our PPP solution will enable us to tackle these challenges and give us revenue in the process.
IMANI: 3. what is happening to the millions of cards in the possessions of the NIA that were never distributed? Have they tested to find out the facility does not work?
We don’t really understand this question regarding finding “out the facility does not work?”
With reference to the cards, let’s be clear that the cards for Greater Accra Region were sent to the field for collection but most of them were returned because applicants did not show up for them and this was due mainly to the time lapse between data collection and data personalization.
Meanwhile, the cost of distribution could have been eliminated by instant issuance of the Ghanacard. Is it any surprise that SSNIT and NHIA are doing instant issuance? In fact NHIA had to abandon central issuance for instant issuance precisely because of the reason stated above.
IMANI: 4. The NIA promised to re-register 750,000 foreigners they know have passports in the country. They managed only 50,000. What happened to the rest of the foreigners who are easily identifiable? How much money did the NIA and its so called PPP partner, IMS waste on this exercise. It was even sad that the Customs and Immigration Authorities that were helping in this mournful exercise could not even help register known foreigners with valid passports.
The 750,000 target comes from the number of self-reported foreigners in the 2010 census. Registering all of them would have been through enforcing the use of the Ghanacards as per LI2111. The registration is ongoing and NIA is doubling its efforts to achieve its objective.
We wish to reiterate that every pesewa spent on this PPP has come from our approved and authorized PPP partner. They bear all the financial and technical risk of the project, while NIA enjoys financial benefits and assured technical delivery; unlike what prevailed under the first contract where the state bore cost and technical risk and earned no revenue.
The failure to register the expected number of foreigners is not just an NIA challenge but an indictment of the nation’s collective failure to ensure that foreigners comply with the laws of the country.
It must be mentioned that this PPP project is the first to be approved and indeed the only successful one so far under the existing National PPP Policy Guidelines issued in June 2011.
IMANI: 5. Globally, there are some national IDs that still use limited number of fingers, the thumb. Ours is for eight fingers which we HAVE NEVER used, and we say it is not good?
Ghana has NEVR had an eight-finger AFIS. INFACT THAT DOES NOT EXIST ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. We usually have 2, 4, 5 and 10. We have had a four finger AFIS and due to the verification challenges associated with poor fingerprints quality, it is sensible to capture all 10 fingerprints. If entities such as the NHIA, which are supposed to rely on our database, are doing instant issuance and are taking 10 fingerprints how can the mother database be limited to just 4 fingerprints?.
IMANI: 6. The NIA is talking about Iris Recognition. When did countries start using Iris Recognition? It started in Dubai in 2008. Next time, when another system is developed, do they throw everything away and register again because a new way of biometric registration has been discovered?
We are upgrading the system to take advantage of modern technology. WE ARE NOT THROWING EVERYTHING AWAY. For instance the Datacard printers shall be used for deferred issuance in areas with communication challenges. We shall use the blank cards, the ribbons, the laminates,etc. IMANI: 7. They say the technology has changed and they have to update the system. Technology changes everyday. Are they going to change the system every year, as technology changes?
See response to question 6 above. In addition if there is new technology that will better serve the nation NIA will consider it based on time tested due diligence and cost benefit analysis. IMANI: 8. If the contact information was not captured in the past registration, can’t this can be done with time?NIA Response That, together with the capture of other information is what is being done under the expanded scope. This exercise will update old information, capture new information such as email addresses, and give citizens a card in hand in one go.
IMANI: 9. The Government has spent a huge amount of money to do this. President Kufuor’s government sunk $30 million earlier in 2006, and there has been annual Government subvention since 2007 through 2011. I estimate some $60 million, not the GHc20 million people are quoting. We must dig deeper.
We should distinguish the sums sunk into such things as the construction of the headquarters building, procurement of vehicles and MRWs, etc in 2006 from operational funds that are needed for data collection, payment of allowances and distribution of cards after same have been printed.
The GHc 20 million was the sum for data collection in the mass registration exercise. Yes, we do get government subvention but we don’t receive enough as to help us achieve our mandate and that is why we are taking advantage of government policy on PPPs to augment the subvention we receive from government.
IMANI: 10. Listening to Dr. Josiah Cobbah on how the NIA is going to recoup the money, he said the “PPP is going to cost the tax-payer zero”. Is it not the Government who is going to guarantee the China EXIM bank loan, and ultimately settle the bill? Dr. Cobbah should give us the breakdown of the $115 million loan and how it would be applied.
We have made it quite clear in our press statement (and we encourage all to read) that the China EXIM bank loan is NOT for registration and issuance of Ghanacards. The expanded PPP is about registration.
The EXIM facility is an EPC contract that will be deployed to complete NIA’s identity management ecosystem and to do such things as harmonizing and integrating all existing biometric databases within the public service, help establish regional and zonal offices, establish a biometric institute to be affiliated to a public university, procure mobile registration vans, etc. There can be disagreement as to what we want to apply the facility to, but we should be quoted correctly.
We have a breakdown of the loan. Meanwhile, this is still going through value for money audit and validation at Finance ministry, before it is submitted to cabinet and eventually to Parliament for consideration and approval.
IMANI: 11. Why can’t we charge GHc20 for everyone who collects his card? In the United States, when you register for the Social Security, you pay $10. If you don’t have the money, you apply instantly and it is given to you free. Why do we distribute cards free to several millions of people who can afford?
Unlike the U.S that has an address system and centuries of data, we cannot afford to exclude citizens of this country from registering due to a cost hurdle. It will be more valuable to get a complete database of residents than an incomplete one. We are exploring the feasibility of higher value cards for value added services for those who can afford it and a base card for those who cannot and do not require the functionality of value added services. The important thing is to make the card available to every resident of the country for identification and verification purposes. Our cards will be available to the poor, blind, non-citizen, young, old and every demographic grouping regardless of background in the country.
IMANI: 12. All along what they have been saying is they need money to give out the cards, money to pay their staff, money to complete the system in the three northern regions. If they have money, these are what they need to do.
We still reiterate that we do not have the requisite state support due to competing demands on the state. Our PPP strategy will bring us revenue to pay our staff and settle all outstanding debts at no cost to government, while giving us a technical system that works.
IMANI: 13. We have used VOTER ID cards that are not machine-readable for more than 10 years until we added biometric verification. Having ID cards with 8 fingers is a remarkable improvement that we must start using and allow it to work, before we think of changing it.
We should not confuse our statutory mandate with that of the EC. We are the custodians of the National ID Register which has biometric information of persons from age 6 and above. Besides the Ghanacard is the only national card that is compulsory by law. The other cards are non-compulsory sector specific cards. With the upgrade, the Ghanacard shall have enough space to ensure the harmonization/integration of all biometric databases in the public service, thereby eliminating the wastage of public funds in the duplication of biometric systems in the country. We remind all that there is no such thing as “ID cards with 8 fingers”. Also, the EC database is not the answer to achieve the mandate for every resident. It excludes foreigners, those under 18 years and those who choose not to vote. Indeed, the only identification document which EVERY Ghanaian and eligible foreign residents in Ghana from AGE 6 are REQUIRED BY STATUTE to have is the NATIONAL IDENTITY CARD issued by the NIA.
IMANI: 14. All over the world, if technology comes up, they are systematically rolled over with time, they must not throw the baby away with the bath water. If it’s not broken, they shouldn’t fix it.
If the current system where we have collected over 15 million data and delivered less than One million cards since 2008 due to technical challenges and prohibitive distribution cost cannot be described as broken, then we wonder what can.
We are fixing it through a PPP where our current partner has achieved100% card issuance; have no distributive cost; has raised over $1.2 million for NIA since implementation and will raise even more if we get non-citizens to comply with our laws. As already mentioned above we are NOT throwing everything away under the current system. We are rolling over part of the current system that is useful into the new system in a systematic manner.
Conclusion: We welcome constructive criticism on our activities as a public service institution but from an informed position. Indeed, this Press Notice from IMANI begins with a completely misleading title. AS WE HAVE STATED IN CLEAR AND ORDINARY ENGLISH both here (see response 10 above) and in our press statement this China EXIM facility is NOT FOR “another card registration”
Meanwhile NIA will soon augment its stakeholder engagements on our programmes and activities and a notice to that effect will be announced shortly.
We implore all Ghanaians to exercise innovative thinking as the status quo is unsustainable. We promise you a new NIA that offers you card-in-hand; a new NIA, transformed from a cost centre to a revenue centre and operating utilizing Good Industry Practice.
The Corporate Affairs Department,
National Identification Authority, Accra.
11th October, 2014.