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Public sector payroll reform for Liberia and Zimbabwe, Côte d’Ivoire voter registration: biometrics in Africa this week

Public sector payroll reform for Liberia and Zimbabwe, Côte d’Ivoire voter registration: biometrics in Africa this week

In biometrics and digital identity across Africa this week, civil servant pay is something of a theme as countries successfully employ biometric technology to sack thousands of ghost workers, potentially saving millions of dollars. Coronavirus continues to affect biometric projects such as voter registration in neighbouring Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire where citizens are expected to register for all manner of different biometric schemes as election pressure mounts. While in Kenya, robots may be deployed in hospitals to use facial recognition to identify patients in a bid to keep medical staff safe from infection.

Côte d’Ivoire: Idemia begins revisions of the voter list

Idemia began registering Ivorian voters on 10 June to update the electoral roll ahead of October’s presidential election, reports Africa Intelligence.

This follows two months of delays due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The election is still due to go ahead despite the health crisis. Elections and voter registration are highly contentious issues in the country and the government has fudged the reform of its electoral commission demanded by the African Human Rights and Peoples Court. Côte d’Ivoire has since withdrawn from the court.

The political situation has been deteriorating, notably since the alliance between political parties which allowed the 2015 election to pass relatively peacefully – the previous two lead to conflicts – broke down in the summer of 2018, meaning the 2020 election could see a return of trouble.

Idemia’s registration of voters and printing of voter cards will therefore be closely watched by local and international observers. Africa Intelligence states a $17 million contract will see the French biometrics firm work alongside Albatross Technologies, founded by Swiss-Malian businessman Mohamed Sidi Kagnassi, for the Ivorian electoral commission, as was the case in 2015.

Local media reports how human rights groups are encouraging people to register to vote as well as the parties calling on their supporters to make sure they have all the documents needed to apply for the new national ID card to then register to vote.

Registration for the new biometric ID card is ongoing, with big names such as the minister for the civil service publicly registering to encourage others to do the same. This is leading to confusion, as the ID card which now incurs a fee was promised to also serve as a voter card and driving license.

Ivorians are also still registering for separate biometric health insurance cards.

Kenya: Robots to use facial recognition in fight against Covid-19

Kenyan firm Mission Global Service is partnering with Indian company Invento to develop ‘Robodoc’ to scan temperatures, take pulse levels, ask pre-programmed  questions and attaching that to facial recognition of patients to create a record for hospitals, reports The Standard.

The robots will also allow a virtual remote connection between doctor and patient and are hoped to help keep medical staff safe from infection.

Zimbabwe: 3,000 ghost workers removed from government payroll

After the Public Service Commission’s biometric registration exercise for all civil servants to collect personal and educational details, the Treasury has been able to remove 3,000 ghost workers from the Salary Service Bureau payroll, reports Bulawayo 24.

The audit, run in collaboration with the World Bank, is still ongoing despite the coronavirus pandemic. The thousands struck off so far had failed to register.

Zimbabwe recently enforced biometric registration for health staff to tackle strikes.

Liberia: No pay for civil servants without biometric ID from 1 July

Liberia’s National Payroll Clean-up Taskforce has announced that from the beginning of July, no civil servant will be paid without submitting a biometric National Identification Number as part of a process to remove ghost workers, reports The Daily Observer.

The move enforces the Wage Bill Control Regulation passed by the Cabinet in March. The taskforce, made up of the Civil Service Agency (CSA), National Identification Registry (NIR) and Internal Audit Agency and Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), also launched the E-verification Platform. The platform grants the CSA and MFDP access to the NIR’s biometric ID database in order to manage salaries.

Miners have previously been required to acquire biometric ID cards as a way to control the artisanal mining sector. Sign up rates for biometric ID are believed to be low. Figures from May 2019 suggested around 130,000 Liberians had cards of a population of around 4.8 million.

The report quotes James A. Thompson, Acting CSA Director General, as saying, “We commend President George Manneh Weah for supporting our team in these painstaking efforts undertaken over the past year to streamline the Government wage bill, which had grown to US$327 million in 2018 and represented more 68 percent of our National Budget but has now been stabilized at US$297 million. With the continuous political will and support of the President Weah, and the Cabinet, and the entire Liberian workforce, this unusually high compensation cost will sustainably be reduced to free up the needed fiscal space to fund investment programs and service delivery that were critical to achieving any substantive change for the citizens of Liberia.”

Liberia continues to experience anti-government protests as it has throughout George Weah’s presidency.

Opinion & Reports

Kenya: The path to electronic voting

A detailed report on Kenya’s voting landscape and a look back at the journey which brought the country to electronic voting – and then a controversial additional manual system. The report by John Kamau for the Daily Nation covers the introduction of biometric voter registration and the latest court decisions on who has the final say on tallies.

News in Brief & Updates

In brief – Rwanda: A Rwandan peacekeeper who undertook biometric registration work with refugees in East Africa has died of COVID-19. Police Constable Enid Mbabazi fell ill while working in South Sudan but was take home to Rwanda where she died.

In brief – Nigeria: The government inaugurates the committee for the Nigeria Digital Identification for Development Project, funded by the World Bank to boost the drive to enroll people for national ID cards.

ID4D – Link: Webinar on 16 June for more information on the World Bank ID4D Mission Billion Challenge for ID innovation.

Link – ID4Africa: Our coverage of the ID4Africa panel “ID Management in Africa in the Era of COVID-19 & Beyond.”

Update – Ghana: The Electoral Commission debunks ‘false reporting’ on low turnout for biometric voter registration pilot schemes; the EC also says its kits are robust while a civil society has gone to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice over their concerns over the new exercise.

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