Hon. Minister of Internal Affairs
The Representatives of the European Union and UNDP
Distinguished Representatives of other UN Agencies and MDAs
Members of the Civil Society Organizations and Forth Estate
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please permit me to start by thanking you all for honouring our invitation to participate in this very epoch-making Stakeholder Consultation on the proposed drafts of the National Civil Registration Bill, Policy and Regulations. Without your presence here today, this consultative process will not move forward.
Established by an Act of Parliament, the National Civil Registration Act of 2016 gave the NCRA the mandate to conduct compulsory registration of citizens and non-citizens resident in Sierra Leone, to provide for the issuance of identity cards, to be responsible for the registration of births, adoptions, deaths, marriages, divorces and nullities throughout Sierra Leone and other related matters.
In the execution of its services however, the NCRA has encountered challenges as a result of lacunae in the Act as well as overlapping mandates with mandates of other statutory authorities. Specifically, though some other legislation were repealed by the NCR Act, there is a conflict with other legislations which were not expressly repealed by the NCR Act; there is the absence of Civil Registration Regulation which will clearly state out the requirements, procedures, fees, and fines for the registration of vital events and civil registration generally; and there isn’t a National Identity Card Regulation which will clearly set out the regulations for obtaining, renewing, changing etc. of National Identity Cards among other things. These challenges precipitated the need for the review of the current NCR Act and the development of regulations for Civil Registration and Identity Management in Sierra Leone.
This process has come a long way. In 2019, a Comprehensive Country Assessment on CRVS was funded by UNICEF and Government of Sierra Leone with technical assistance from UNECA which revealed the imperative need for legal reforms to take place for an integrated CRVS system to become functional and effective. The NCRA has taken steps to address some of these challenges through the signing of Memoranda of Understanding and other mechanisms but they have not been exhaustive to address the challenges and gaps we continue to grapple with.
Mr. Chairman, Hon. Minister, It is worth pointing out that “Sierra Leone’s CRVS System is exceptional” as espoused by a Director at UNECA at the launch of our five Years National CRVS and ID Management Strategic Plan and the Comprehensive Country Assessment Report. The Director added that “Sierra Leone is one of only a few countries in Africa that has an integrated CRVS system with Civil Registration, Vital Statistics and Identity Management consolidated and housed in one Authority”.
Along the way, the European Union and the UNDP, key Development Partners in the CRVS and ID Management in Sierra Leona have thrown their support behind the review of the National Civil Registration Act in a bid to iron out any legal creases that may hinder the effective and efficient functioning of the NCRA. In addition to financial and technical support secured from these two Partners towards this and other related activities, the support has included hiring of an International Consultant to team up with National Legal Experts to ensure the review of the NCR Act goes smoothly and stands the test of time.
Given such complexities and need, the need for legal reforms is paramount and thankfully, NCRA and its Partners have taken this seriously which is why we are here today and we will be represented in all five Regions of the country over the next few days for similar Consultations during which, Stakeholders with whom the NCRA shares data, interacts with and as well as those who play key roles in the CRVS and ID Management process can adequately and sufficiently make their various contributions to the draft documents. Some of these Agencies include the Office of the Administrator & Registrar General, Statistics Sierra Leone, National Electoral Commission, Ministries of Gender and Children Affairs; and Social Welfare, Local Government and Rural Development, Health and Sanitation, Local Councils. Our expectation is that the proposed new Legislation and Regulations, incorporating your valuable inputs and revisions will be presented to Cabinet and Parliament before end of 2021.
It is my humble hope and the hope of the NCRA and by extension the hope of the Government and people of Sierra Leone, that you will join us in the highly participatory sessions as we forge ahead with the legal reviews for which we are gathered here today.
While bidding you Good Luck, on behalf of the Board of Authority, Management and Staff of NCRA, I thank you for your attention!