Longstanding Elections Commissioner Vincent Alexander has pointed out that though the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is responsible for the issuance of national identification cards under the National Registration Act, the Commission was never consulted on the government plans to introduce a new E-identification card.
“One does not know where we are going because GECOM has not been brought into the picture. Critical to the work of GECOM from the electoral perspective is the National ID Card but here you have an implementation of a system without GECOM being told what its role would be in the future from the perspective of being a stakeholder for National ID Cards, and being the agency that has traditionally produced under the National Registration Act those ID cards,” Mr Alexander told News Source on Friday.
The introduction of the E-identification card forms part of a US$35.4 million Single Electronic Identification System the Government intends to implement over the next 12 months.
The Opposition nominated Elections Commissioner said though he is not opposed to the utilization of integrated identity solutions, the project is vague and leaves many lingering questions in the absence of consultation, a legal framework and critical information.
“Such an initiative is the way to go. It is where the world has gone, and where the world, those who haven’t gone are going…it is almost universal now but in pursuing such database, you have to be sure about the legal framework [and] we do not have a legal framework in place at this point in time. You have to ensure that the database is distant from an Executive so that you can’t have political forces manipulating the information in that database. It needs to be insulated in an autonomous body that can manage such a database. These are issues that are unknown,” Mr Alexander said.
He noted that while Attorney General Anil Nandlall, has indicated that the Government intends to put the legislative framework in place to facilitate the Electronic Identification System, it would appear that the Irfaan Ali administration has placed the cart before the horse.
“I would think that one does not start by creating the database in the ID card, one starts by creating the legal framework within which this ID should be produced and operated. We have started at the wrong end, in that regard. Now, the card has to speak to the Legislation, not the Legislation speak to the card. But we seem to have a situation where in somebody’s head, they know what they want to do, so they are doing the card and then legislation will come later. And there are elements of contempt in things like these because legislation is the function of Parliament, and Parliament is not the Government, it is not the Executive,” Mr Alexander reasoned.
Ahead of signing the US multimillion-dollar contract with Veridos – a German-based company – President Irfaan Ali said the Electronic Identification System, will entail the capturing of biometric data and will see every citizen being assigned a unique national registration number which could be used in the public and private Sectors for the conduct of various transactions.
President Ali had also indicated that the e-ID card would be separate and apart from the national identification card.
But Elections Commissioner Alexander said in the absence of a legislative framework, one cannot be too certain.
He reminded that GECOM had long been exploring the use of biometrics and a multipurpose ID card, noting that though a motion was put to the Commission just last year for the use of biometrics, the it was the government that made it clear that it was not in support of such a move.
Now, several months later, he said the Government is moving to implement an even more complicated system.
“That system would have involved the Register of Births, the Register of Deaths, NIS, the GRA and probably other agencies including the use of the card coming out of that system in a manner that has been described by the President in his description of the system they are now introducing. So that in many regards, it raises some questions. What is the problem you would have had with GECOM’s approach to biometric…but now introducing a system that is far more complex,” he said.
There have been by the Guyana Human Rights Association and the APNU+AFC opposition for the project to be put on pause and for information regarding it to be placed in the public domain and laid in the National Assembly. The Government has defended its decision to move ahead with the project, without any consultation.
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