Concord Times (Freetown)

Sierra Leone: AG Urged to Fast-Track Review of Births and Deaths Act

Deputy Chief Registrar at the Births and Deaths department has called on government, through the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, to fast-track the review of the 1983 Act which created the unit within the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

Richard B. Konnie made the call last week in an exclusive interview with Concord Times at his Wilberforce Street office in central Freetown. He said it was imperative that the 33-year-old Act is reviewed and amended because some of the clauses are obsolete.

"The 1983 Births and Deaths Act needs to be reviewed urgently. Certain clauses within the Act are greatly hindering the effective performance of this institution. For instance, the Act dictates that all registration must be done on paper; can you imagine?" lamented Mr. Konnie. "For God's sake, we live in a modernised world, everything is computer base, and we [have to] go by the Act," he said.

Konnie revealed that in early 2012 UNICEF-hired consultants and personnel at the department reviewed the Act and proffered recommendations, which were sent to the Office of the Attorney-General for onward submission to Parliament for amendment and repeal, but nothing has been done to date.

He said the department, which is the oldest in the country, as it was established in 1791, should be treated with all the seriousness it deserves because their work is significant to the development of the country since they record the number of new births which in turn helps government in planning for health services, enrolment in schools, and acquiring data on deaths across the country.

He said the department is on the verge to launch a campaign that will require under-five children benefitting from the free healthcare to produce their birth certificates before they could have access to free treatment in government hospitals.

He noted that the department would liaise with the Freetown City Council to ensure that persons using public cemeteries produce death certificates before they are allowed to bury their dead. Off course, he said, the regulations could be made possible if they are given legal effect by way of a comprehensive review and amendment of the current Act.

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