By Joseph S. Margai
President Julius Maada Bio has told his audience that the newly launched national securitized, multipurpose identity cards will help to eliminate cash hoarding, money laundering, financial fraud, telecommunications fraud, and identity fraud.
He made this statement during the launch of the national securitized multipurpose identity cards, which took place at the State House Lawn in Freetown.
It was the first time that Sierra Leone has ever launched a digital securitized, multipurpose ID cards, a process that was initiated, funded and implemented by the President Bio-led New Direction administration.
“Illicit financial flows may be tracked better in a digital economic space. National identification numbers (NINs) have helped us [to] effectively administer payroll and eliminate ghost employees and other waste,” President Bio told his audience at the State House lawn.
He said the introduction of the biometric ID card also provides an opportunity for Sierra Leoneans to transition to a full biometric voter system that ensures that every citizen is granted his or her due right to vote, and every vote cast is accounted for, fully within the shortest possible time, disclosing that peer countries in the sub-region have successfully reduced voter fraud and other electoral errors with the introduction of full biometric voter systems.
“Chip-based biometric IDs will help us get even better at tracking, monitoring, and accountability in governance and public service delivery including healthcare and education. I, therefore, urge the NCRA to expedite the assignment of NINs to pupils in order to control the real and persistent problem of bloated school rolls and examinations’ malpractices,” he urged.
President Bio said, in conversations with the leadership of the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA), he had urged every Sierra Leonean wishing to have a biometric ID card to be able to do so no farther away than the district headquarter town in each district, adding that he was assured by the NCRA that every Sierra Leonean can now acquire a biometric ID card within 72 hours at every district headquarter town.
He thanked the government’s development partners, especially the European Union, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, Irish Aid, Plan International, the World Bank, and many others, for their consistent support in strengthening the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CVRS) systems.
NCRA’s Director General, Mohamed M. Massaquoi, said the newly launched ID cards are consistent with international standards and specifications, adding that for the first time in history, biometric ID cards will be produced and issued to citizens and other nationals resident in Sierra Leone.
“We have signed a memoranda of understanding with the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA), Sierra Leone Police, Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Sierra Leone Immigration Department, among others, so as to get vital information about nationals and non-nationals resident in Sierra Leone,” he said.
He disclosed that the NCRA has cleaned the government payroll system by tracking double-dippers, among others.
Chairlady, Market Women Association, Haja Marie Bob-Kandeh, emphasized the benefits of the newly launched ID card to market women, noting that it will help women, who are buying and selling goods internally and those that are involved in cross border trade as well.
“Previously, we used to obtain an emergency document that will last for only a single entry into a country. But with this biometric securitized and multipurpose ID card, that will now be a thing of the past. I’m happy that the issuance of the ID card has also been decentralized, such move will help the market women as well,” she said, adding that it will help them to access loans from the banks and register their businesses.