By Amin Kef-Ranger.
A three days National Electoral Legal Reform Conference was organized by the National Electoral Commission, in collaboration with other stakeholders, at the New Brookfields Hotel at New England Ville in Freetown from the 10-12 August, 2021 bringing together representatives from Ministries, Departments and Agencies, development partners, Civil Society Organizations, the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA), the Judiciary, the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) and the different political parties in the country.
During the conference, a panel was constituted to look at the electoral legal reform process that will lead to free and fair elections in the country. Members of the panel were drawn from the National Electoral Commission, the Political Parties Registration Commission, the National Civil Registration Authority, the Judiciary and from political parties.
During the deliberations, the Director General of the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA), Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi, assured the public of his institution’s readiness to provide the requisite data on the population of the country for citizens and non-citizens to Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Development Partners including the National Electoral Commission, the National Social Security and Insurance Trust, the National Revenue Authority etc. based on when such information could be needed and for what purpose.
He also used the opportunity to refute misleading information propagated by mischief makers that the data they are generating is purely for electoral purposes. Setting the record straight, the DG reported that before the conduct of the 2018 elections, data on citizens that have attained the voting age, amounting to 3, 178, 664, making them eligible to vote was extracted from the NCRA Civil Register by the National Electoral Commission in order to develop NEC’s voters’ register that was used to conduct the 2018 Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections.
That practice, he intimated, is now new the world over where population Register is used to inform public administration, guide policy and other interventions among others.
He noted that since 2018 to date and with the ongoing nationwide confirmation and registration exercise in the country, the NCRA civil register had been and is still regularly updated or capturing the personal details of new registrants.
“New registrants captured in the ongoing exercise will be inputted in the civil register which could be useful to all public institutions including the National Electoral Commission,” the NCRA Director General assured further pointing out that such will save cost to conduct very expensive periodic registration or surveys.
Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi assured of the reliability of his institution’s data with inclusiveness stating how they are assiduously working towards curtailing identity fraud as every citizen is entitled to just one National Identification Number which will not leave room for any form of identity manipulation or duplication.
He concluded by stating that the Identity Management Infrastructure of the NCRA was first tested in October and November 2018 by the European Union Technical Assistant Team and the report is available on their evaluation system, adding that another assessment was also done on the same system with support from UNDP and Irish Aid in February and March 2020 of which he assured that both assessments of the system report indicate that the identity management infrastructure of the NCRA is very good and data useable for various purposes.
The Director General extended invitation to any interest group to visit the NCRA in order to get first-hand information on how their system operates or works further assuring that the institution is more than ready to support any entity that needs data for national development thereby saving cost, guaranteeing inclusiveness, with facts on the country ‘s population.