Columnists Features

Shared NRC numbers: Buck stops at national registration department

KONAYUMA

Analysis: JUDITH KONAYUMA
THE revelations arising from an audit of the voters register of shared national registration card numbers and shared names and dates of birth is a cause of concern.
These audit findings leave one wondering how such a large number of people could have the same NRC numbers and others same names and dates of birth.
Independent auditors engaged by the Electoral Commission of Zambia to remove speculation of registration of foreign voters have unearthed these unsound findings.
The process of obtaining an NRC in Zambia has for a long time been a tedious one.
Whether this was by design by those engaged to issue NRCs to make the process look complicated, or that was just how it was designed, left a number of applicants in a state of desperation.
The seemingly complicated process was cumbersome and coupled with the non-computerisation of the system then made it even worse.
In some cases, ignorance on the part of applicants for NRCs can promote illegal activities. Sometimes it is a held belief that nothing comes easily in a government office if one does not ‘oil’ some hands.
We have seen situations where the process of retrieval of a document from a government office is made to look complicated. On the other hand, this places an individual who seeks a service in a desperate situation.
The need to devise a simple system is necessary to curb any malpractice in the process. The NRCs are among some of the documents that become a necessity at a certain time. They are prescribed by law.
Days have since changed for the better. Once upon a time, one had to produce a national document to prove citizenship.
The NRCs become necessary at some roadblocks, especially in border towns, where there is a high number of foreigners.
The status that an NRC confers on an individual is enough. Everyone wants to have it, and anyone is a citizen if they have this document.
The possession of an NRC comes with a number of advantages. Apart from being recognised as a Zambian, one is, in the first place, entitled to voting in an election.
We are heading towards general elections and every eligible Zambian wants to exercise their right by casting the vote on August 11.
This process, by its very nature, places an obligation on a voter to choose a representative they want. Every Zambian has this desire and that is why they take part.
It is also a requirement that one produces an NRC before they are given a job. It matters in a job offer to prove that one is a Zambian citizen.
These are only a few of the examples where one needs to prove their citizenship. Conversely, it means that one who does not have this document is not eligible to a number of privileges as enjoyed by citizens.
Every country places its citizens in the first place. That is why even university fees are categorised according to nationality. Citizens benefit from lower fees. Who would want to be left out?
There are other services which are offered by Government where an individual is demanded to produce an NRC, for example, when getting a university or college place. This is where it matters to own an NRC.
The NRC is therefore a highly coveted document which some individuals would want to get by all means. While some will use legal means of obtaining it, others do not mind the illegal means.
It is at this point where measures to curb the illegal issuance of NRCs need to be implemented. How else would a national document end up being shared by two people?
The fact that numbers are issued when one obtains it means that number belongs to that individual. From my mathematics, I know that numbers are infinite.
This, I am sure, is taken into account when an institution comes up with a numbering system. Those responsible know that they will go on giving different numbers without running short of any.
It should therefore be unacceptable to find citizens sharing NRC numbers. Something, somewhere is amiss. The starting point is the Department of National Registration.
The non-computerisation of the department for a long time could have provided an opportunity by some dishonest officers to take advantage and issue NRCs illegally.
Computerisation of any system makes retrieval of information for comparison or mere reference easier.
One can only hope the National Identity Unit under the Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship will clean its registers and end this sharing of numbers. The buck stops there.
The author is Sunday Mail editor

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