Amid the ongoing scrutiny of the 2020/2021 National Budget to the tune of US$535.4 million, the National Identification Registry (NIR) has appealed for increased budgetary allotment to enable the agency effectively expand its services across the country.
The NIR, which has a budget of US$500,000 in the draft national budget, wants the House of Representative to increase its budget in order to begin the issuance of free identification cards, particularly to those living below the poverty line.
According to the NIR Executive Director, J. Tiah Nagbe, if the NIR is supported properly with the necessary financial backing, it will not just have accurate data on the citizens and non-Liberians, but also save the country a lot of money through payroll verification.
Mr. Nagbe added that the work of the NIR does not only allow the removal of ‘ghost names’ from benefit programs, it eliminates the need for repeated registration/counting for voting or census.
“This can lead to substantial savings and increase in government revenues. Some potential savings over the next ten years if our budgetary increase appeal is actually accepted, is to the tune of US$145 million. The areas, [from which] the money will be saved, include GoL Payroll Cleaning, which involves the removing ghost names, amounting to at least 3% of gross annual salary payments. During this period, the government is expected to save US$95 million. Other areas include the voter registration exercise, which will save the government US$40 million due to the NIR’s ability to end repeated registration of voters, which will then lead to at least 80% reduction in costs; as well as save on the use of the registry to support population census. The development of digital identity in Liberia can help the country’s economic and social development. This report provides a rapid study of the potential and readiness of digital identity in Liberia,” Nagbe said.
It may be recalled, the government enacted the national identification registry (NIR) act in 2011 to establish national identification in the country. The law calls for the setup of the NIR to be responsible for issuing a biometric-based identification card to each citizen and resident in Liberia.
In his presentation on Thursday, the NIR Executive Director, besides increased allotment to embark on massive registration, also appealed to the Legislature to strengthen the law concerning the National ID card.
Mr. Teah told the lawmakers that ‘tightening’ the law on the National ID card will make it effective because the National ID card is a unique identifier, as compared to the social security number in the United States of America (USA).
The NIR boss further appealed to the House of Representatives to amend the 1986 elections law to consider the NIR to support the voter registration and voter roll biometrically. Nagbe said the National Biometric ID card can save the government from using surplus money on voter registration and deter trucking of citizens from one region to another.
He boasted that the biometric system is built to identify “finger prints, faces, and other features” to curtail double registrations.
Nimba County lawmaker, Larry Younquoi, on behalf of his colleagues thanked Mr. Nagbe for the presentation and assured him of their support. House Speaker Bhofal Chambers added his voice and said it will be dealt with appropriately.