The Programme Steering Committee (PSC) of the European Union Technical Assistance Support on the Governance Sector in the Area of Civil Registration on Thursday 3rd October, 2019 held its inaugural meeting on the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) process.
The meeting which took place at the Ministry of Finance’s Conference Room on George Street in Freetown brought together stakeholders from various institutions that are members of the Programme Steering Committee of the EU Technical Assistant Support on the Governance Sector in the area of Civil Registration and ID Management. These include the National Electoral Commission (NEC), National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), the European Union Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Statistician General (SSL), Registrar, Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tertiary and Higher Education, Chief Education Officer, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communications, Commissioner General, National Revenue Authority (NRA), Financial Secretary, Ministry of Finance and a host of observers from other partner institutions to discuss plans relating to the enhancement of the CRVS process in the country.
The Programme Steering Committee also discussed variety of issues including coordination, and teamwork, logistics and finance, staffing, technical improvement in the CRVS process, the merger of certain activities of some line institutions and accommodation challenge of the Authority among host of other issues.
In his opening statement, the co-chairperson of the Programme Steering Committee who also serves as the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Sierra Leone, His Excellency Tom Vens, said he is impressed with the progress made so far in the CRVS process. He stated that the CRVS and ID management program in Sierra Leone is in good shape barely a year after its inception. He assured the NCRA and its partner institutions of EU’s continued support to Sierra Leone’s CRVS and ID management program.
The EU Ambassador pointed out that digital identity system needs to be timely. He highlighted the importance of registering all vital events, managing national identity system as well as managing a well-structured civil register. He called on the NCRA leadership to adequately record all vital events and for quality assurance in record keeping.
Ambassador Vens reminded the NCRA team about some key recommendations made a year earlier and encouraged the Team to ensure that they are implemented. He also admonished the NCRA team and line institutions to focus on system integration and transparency, embrace trust building with other stakeholders in order to realize the desired objectives of the CRVS and ID management process.
The Director General of NCRA who also serves as co-chair of the Programme Steering Committee, Mr. Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi expressed appreciation over the level of corporation shown by the Programme Steering Committee members. His opening statement gave an overview that encapsulated the progress made so far in the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) process, national identity management and the development of a standardized civil register in the country.
.Mr. Massaquoi informed the Committee about the positive coordination and corporation of key stakeholders on the CRVS and ID Management Program Steering Committee and assured that the NCRA is focused on ensuring the realisation of its established mandate. In carrying out its mandate, the NCRA has no plans to deprive or hijack the laid down mandates of other Programme Steering Committee members, Mr. Massaquoi assured everyone. He explained the successes NCRA has made so far in the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics process.
The NCRA Director-General assured the PSC members and donor partners that the Authority is on good footing in terms of its mandates, noting that “most of the key institutions involved in the realization of the CRVS process are cooperating with us to help attain a functional and credible process.”
Explaining the relevance of the CRVS process, Mr. Massaquoi said “it would make it easy for government to account for all residents in the country and how all citizens and non-citizens stand to benefit from a well-structured CRVS process.”
He emphasized that a standardized CRVS process would enable countries to better plan national development and peace consolidation. He averred that His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio’s commitment to have a structured civil register of vital statistics and national identity management in the country is on track.
Mr. Massaquoi commended the consultants currently helping the Authority with staff capacity building, technical improvement of the institution as well as standardizing the CRVS process, for their good work so far. He also praised the NCRA team for their dedication and commitment to ensuring that the Authority meets its laydown mandates within the stated time frame.
Highlighting the multiple challenges NCRA continues to grapple with, the Director-General catalogued logistics, finance, office accommodation, staff capacity building and improved technical development of the CRVS process.
On the issue of office accommodation for the NCRA, Mr. Massaquoi informed his audience about the EU funding to refurbish an office space that has been provided by the Government of Sierra Leone at Kingharman Road. He however reported that there is a funding gap for the completion of the refurbishment of the allocated buildings. According to Mr. Massaquoi, the facility needs urgent consideration. He therefore called on development partners to intervene in expediting the renovation work at the Kingharman Road proposed headquarters.
The EU team leader on the Programme Steering Committee on the CRVS and the digital identity system, Genene Bizuneh, whilst presenting progress report on their activities pointed out the need to mobilise more resources for the CRVS process. According to him, NCRA inherited a dysfunctional system from the National Registration Secretariat (NRS)
“I must now reveal that the authority is undergoing needed reforms to make it fit for purpose,” Mr. Bizuneh said.
He went on to state that they are working with the Authority to set up offices across the country and also to adequately train the staff to match up to the task of the CRVS.
The EU team leader pointed out that Sierra Leone’s CRVS process is very unique compared to CRVS processes in some other African countries as it is integrated with national identity management.
He informed attendees of the meeting that civil registration is about recording the past, present and future information and that it also encompasses backlog information registration and documentation and recording of addresses in the near future. Genene Bizuneh therefore urged members of the Program Steering Committee as well as observers and the government to fully support the NCRA.
Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh, Chief Electoral Commissioner in his contribution also assured other Programme Steering Committee members that the Authority’s work aims at developing a standardized Civil register that would be of immense benefit to foreign missions, Development Partners, other national institutions and the government. He recommended that political parties be included in the membership of the Program Steering Committee particularly because the NCRA’s work deals with election data.
Similar sentiments were shared by the head of National Elections Watch (NEW), Marcella Samba who commended NCRA for its excellent work on the CRVS process. Madam Marcella also noted that the absence of a well-structured civil register in the country and the poor storage of vital data has had some serious effects on national development planning. She expressed concern over the credibility and accuracy of data stressing that inaccurate information would undermine the work of NCRA. She cautioned the NCRA Director- General to maintain high standards and also recommended for more public awareness and advocacy of the CRVS and ID Management activities.
Mr. Ambrose James, Director, National Authorising Office (NAO) thanked the NCRA for conveying the meeting and for the wider participation of its partner institutions. He asked the Head of the EU Technical Team, Mr. Genene Bizuneh to provide measurable data for the Project activities and to revise some of the timelines. Mr. James recommended that that public awareness and advocacy should be critical in the overall activities of the CRVS and ID management program.
Other PSC members made meaningful contributions to the Project’s proposed activities. The Director-General of the NCRA assured all that their suggestions would be adequately accommodated. The Project documents presented by the EU Technical Assistance team were adopted by the PSC members. The next meeting was program steering committee was scheduled March 2020.