(FREETOWN, THURSDAY 3 DECEMBER 2020) – The National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) has presented the Draft Data Protection Policy and Bill for Sierra Leone to representatives of Ministries, Departments, Agencies, Commissions and Civil Society Organizations. This meeting was held at the Ministry of Finance Conference Hall, George Street in Freetown.
Specially, the meeting was attended by: the Office of National Security (ONS), Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), Statistics Sierra Leone (Stats -SL), West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), Human Rights Commission Sierra Leone (HRCSL), National Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), Immigration Office, Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), Law Officers Department, Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI), Human Resources Management Office (HRMO), Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), Interpol, National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), Society For Democratic Initiative (SDI), National Electoral Commission (NEC), Right to Access Information (RAI), National Revenue Authority (NRA), and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
The Director General (DG) of the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA), Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi commenced the meeting by thanking participants for honoring his call on a very short notice. He said that the essence of the meeting is to ensure stakeholders who are practically involved into data collection and processing have their input in the draft documents so that it can be reflective of the views of all. Mr. Massaquoi said that the need for us to have a law that guides us on the use and share of personal data is in place, timely and remains very critical. The DG said that the NCRA has got series of engagements with critical stakeholders to have a data protection law in place. He noted that “as it is required, before a law is passed, a lot of consultations should be held within the realm of stakeholders that have business with it”.
Mr. Massaquoi maintained that the Authority has been in constant touch with stakeholders involved in data collection and processing before the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic across the world and Sierra Leone to be specific. He added that the NCRA has been holding consultative meetings at technical level but thought it prudent to broaden the scope of membership of the data protection policy committee.
He thanked the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), European Union and Irish Aid for their technical and financial support towards the process.
Presenting the draft Data Protection Bill, Policy and Regulation, the Consultant, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai Esq said that for the fact that MDAs and other institutions are handling information about individuals, it has been agreed globally that it is but very important to protect certain aspect of information. “The regime which Sierra Leone is galvanizing together is actually to ensure that we have data protection in which personal information and the category of information cannot just be released or accessed by people”
Mr. Abdulai announced that before the draft of the Data Protection Bill, there had been a Data Protection Policy which gives the pathway and lays the foundation for the law to be passed.
The Consultant said that the need to have a consultative meeting with stakeholders involved in data processing is very much important as it will give more credence and access to the process itself. He noted that “Gone are the days when government officials will just sit at their respective offices and draft law and expect citizens to adopt it.”
He mentioned that the objectives of the Data Protection Policy is to inform the development of the privacy and data protection law, facilitate the statutory and regulatory compliance and enhance effective application of the proposed law in Sierra Leone; comply with international good practice and ensure consistency in practices and procedures in developing and administering the Privacy and Data Protection Law; ensure effective protection and management of Personal Data by identifying, assessing, monitoring and mitigating privacy risks in programs and activities involving the collection, retention, use, disclosure and disposal of personal data. Speaking on the scope of the policy, Mr Abdulai went on to say that the policy among other things shall be the overarching guiding policy in relation to matters of privacy and data protection.
In his submission, the Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) Andrew Jaiah KaiKai commended the consultant for a thorough and well-informed presentation. He noted that Sierra Leone is on the right move to adopt such a laudable venture.
Also, the Chairman, Rights to Access Information, Dr. Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, said that looking at international best practice, government should ensure that they strengthen those institutions that are already dealing with data in the country instead of setting up a new institution for the said purpose. He noted, that it will help to reduce cost and wastage. He said that creating a new institution for the said purpose will weaken the work of other institutions that are dealing with data processing in the country.
The Acting Director of Information and Communications, Ministry of Information and Communications, Mohamed Jalloh, applauded the work of NCRA in ensuring that such a move is achieved. He said that the Data Protection Bill has nothing to do with right to access information, as it only talks about personal data. He said that the Ministry has developed a Digital Transformation Policy and Electronic Communication Act that will harmonize institutions or sectors that are dealing with data.
The Director of Legal Affairs, National Electoral Commission (NEC) Fatorma Bundeh and Sahr Kase Gbema from the National Revenue Authority (NRA) also made meaningful contributions towards the need for better data protection in the country.
The Deputy Director General of NCRA, John Godswill Lavalie in his closing statement, thanked the participants for giving their time towards the process, and that the NCRA remain grateful for the privilege of their contributions.
©️IEC Directorate, NCRA