IMANI Report: Don’t Mess up the National ID System

Published: 8/Feb/2016
Source: IMANI Centre for Policy and Education (Accra)

IMANI was pleased to be invited by the World Bank and Citi FM, conveners of the National Identity System Roundtable on the 4th of February 2016, to deliver a paper on the ‘risks and opportunities’ inherent in the implementation of a national ID system in Ghana. In this report, we provide a road-map regarding the establishment of a credible National ID System.

By IMANI Staff | IMANI Report | IMANI Africa

The conveners must have been aware of IMANI’s near-decade fascination with this subject. But the prompting for the roundtable could have come from the recent agitation over the national electoral register, which all political parties and the Electoral Commission in Ghana agree contains ineligible entries that affects its quality, even if there is a dispute about the extent of the impact of these ineligible entries. There is a strong belief that a well-functioning national ID system can help address the quality issues, whatever their extent and impact, affecting the national voters roll.

Our paper consolidated the views of scholars and specialists around the world and in Ghana who have studied national ID systems from multiple perspectives. In doing so, participants from IMANI had to examine two issues that most stakeholders appeared most worried about.

Firstly, there is the issue of the wastefulness of multiple agencies developing end-to-end ID systems, drawing funds from the public chest to finance them, and in the process replicating the work of their counterpart agencies in the public sector whilst breeding registration fatigue among citizens. The clarion call appears to favour ‘harmonisation’ of the various ID card schemes into a centralized, national, ID Database.

Secondly, many stakeholders are unconvinced about the quality of the identity data backing the existing identity documents in Ghana today. There is the belief that a brand new ID system will address the shortcomings of existing identity systems by taking a fresh approach.

In the course of the deliberations, it became clear that the National ID Card project is very much alive. However, the Founding Director of the Authority set up in 2003 to see to its implementation believes that the country had wasted nearly a decade and half due to vested interests and probable corruption. Further inquiry is warranted to get to the bottom of the delays and false starts.

IMANI’s presentation was in three parts: Risks, Opportunities and New Thinking (or recommendations).

Read further on IMANI website.

Themes: ID Documents and Passports
Regions: Ghana
Year: 2016