Liberia: National Identification Registry Requests More Funding in National Budget to Expand Agency's Services

Monrovia — The Executive Director of the National Identification Registry (NIR) J. Tiah Nagbe has called for more budgetary support to enable the agency to expand its services across the country.

When this is done, Mr. Nagbe said, the country will not only have accurate data on citizens and residents within its borders but will save millions in revenue.

He made the assertions on Thursday while addressing the Plenary of the House of Representatives in its 51st - day sitting of the 54th Legislature's ongoing third session.

His appearance comes in the wake of the ongoing scrutiny of the 2020/2021 National Budget in the tune of US$535.4 million and the allotment of US$500,000 to the NIR.

In a passionate appeal to the lawmakers, Mr. Nagbe said if the NIR is fully supported to implement its mandates as required by law, the agency will not only clean the government blotted payroll and ghost names from benefits programs but will strengthen 'our electoral processes' and save close to US$150 million within the next 10 years.

If his appeal is accepted, Nagbe said some potential savings will include government's payroll cleaning, which involves the removal of ghost names, amounting to at least three percent of gross annual salary payments. During this period, he said 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 percent reduction in costs and empowers the registry to support population census.

The National Identification Registry was established by an act of the National Legislature and approved in 2011 with the mandate to design, establish, maintain and administer a national biometric identification system.

According to the Registry, some if its achievements during past FY2019/2020 include the completion of government's payroll clean up, commencement of a nationwide registration of citizens and residents in the National Biometric Identification System.

The goals set for FY2020-21, among others are to create a common biometric identification platform for social planning, effective delivery, and national security and to clean up GOL Payroll by the National Identification Registry.

During the cross-examination exercise, several lawmakers including Reps. Larry Younquoi (District #8, Nimba County), Jimmy Smith (District #2, Montserrado County), P. Mike Jurry (District #1, Maryland County) expressed concern over the decentralization of the process and measures that are being put in place to ensure the process is not infiltrated.

In response, Nagbe said because there are no prior documents such as birth certificate and passport for the majority of the population, the agency is working in line with the Liberia Immigration Services and other sectors to ensure the data collected are accurate.

He said every resident, whether citizens and foreigners are entitled to the identification card but under different categories.

He added that currently the registration exercise is taking place in every county's capital city and as funding increases, the agency will extend its activities outside of the counties' capitals. Asked whether it was feasible to conduct the exercise free of charge, he said it depends on the budgetary support by the Legislature.

Speaking on behalf of plenary, Rep. Younquoi said there was a need for more budgetary support to the NIR to enhance Liberia's democracy.

"Your being here is also a wakeup call that the budget must be livable and responsive so that we cannot only ensure our people are identified but we get rid of some of the dubieties in our electoral processes that bringing trucking in this country," said Rep. Younquoi in his statement of support.

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