Rwanda: Blame Game as the Digital System for Criminal Record Clearance Breaks Down

People seeking criminal record certificates through Irembo -the online portal for government services-are currently stranded as they cannot access the service.

The process to issue the criminal record certificate-often required to secure various services such as visas, passports and public sector jobs-was digitised last year.

As a result, the processing of an electronic certificate issued by the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) via Irembo was to take less than three days.

However, some people who spoke to The New Times said that the system is non-functional.

This has limited their access to other services such as applying for jobs where a criminal record certificate is one of the requirements.

"I applied for a criminal record in mid-July through Irembo but I have not yet received it," said Anaclet Mbonigaba. "I was looking for one to be able to apply for a nursing job advertised by the ministry of health."

Due to the lack of the criminal record certificate, Mbonigaba missed out on the opportunity.

He is one of applicants who told The New Times that have missed out on various services due to lack of criminal record certificates.

For instance, in July this year, Benita Uwase helped her sister to apply for the criminal record certificate in order to apply for a job in a security company.

She is yet to receive feedback on the status of her application for the document.

An agent of Irembo in Remera Sector, Gasabo District-who preferred anonymity-said that since July she has aided many people to apply for the criminal record certificate but in vain.

When contacted for a comment, Yvan Magwene, the Communications Manager at Irembo, referred us to NPPA.

6,000 applicants stranded

Annette Ingabire, the Criminal Record Director at NPPA, confirmed there have been hiccups in the system since June 23.

She attributed the problem to the breakdown in the network that links NPPA with the Irembo system.

She disclosed that at least 6,434 applications are currently being scrutinized.

When the lockdown was lifted, she explained, there was a surge in applications.

Every day they could receive over 600 applications, she disclosed.

"Currently, we receive about 350 applications every day. So, when the system broke down, we got a huge backlog," she said.

Ingabire promised that the problem will be resolved within two weeks.

To her, since Irembo hosts many services, the system tends to become heavy when there are many applicants.

This has prompted NPPA to work on a project dubbed "Smart National Public Prosecution Authority system" which will complement Irembo in the process of issuing criminal record certificates.

"The system will still serve applicants even when Irembo gets issues," she said.

It is expected to be completed next year.

The proposed project will also combine services of Integrated Case Management System (ICMS) and National Identification Agency (NIDA)

Since its establishment in 2015, at least 97 services have been added to the Irembo platform and 8 million people have been served.

At least 18 public institutions have signed up to the platform while more than 70,000 electronic certificates have been issued, according to official statistics.

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