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Cameroon PM announces major reforms to national ID system as issuance backlog swells

Cameroon PM announces major reforms to national ID system as issuance backlog swells
 

Cameroon’s Prime Minister Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute told lawmakers on Friday June 30 that a new national digital ID card system announced by the President of the Republic Paul Biya in 2021 will go operational soon, as the number of unissued ID cards in the country remains high.

Before that happens however, the PM said the issuing authority – the General Delegation for National Security (DGSN) – is taking some stop-gap measures to handle the situation that has remained a perennial headache for many years.

Dion Ngute was speaking during a plenary session in the lower chamber of the country’s Parliament as lawmakers grilled him and some members of his cabinet on a wide range of current issues affecting the day-to-day life of Cameroonians.

The imminent reforms

According to the PM, the new ID system being planned will be expedient and efficient.

“As part of efforts to fluidify the ID production problem, the Head of State in 2021 called for the putting in place of a new ID production system on the basis of a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) arrangement. Work is ongoing for the operationalisation of the new system,” the PM told the lawmakers.

Reports in the past had suggested a power fight around the ID card contract which is said to be juicy.

Dion Ngute said the system will be designed in the same way the country’s current biometric passport system operates. Passports have since July 1 2021 been issued in only 48 hours maximum, as opposed to at least four weeks in the past.

“The new system envisaged will include an online enrollment platform, the introduction of easier methods for digital payments, an automated system to inform the applicant of the progress of the card production process, the opening of many more identification posts across the country, the availability of mobile enrollment kits, as well as an interoperable digital communication system with other government services.”

Cameroon’s unending woes

Delays in the issuance of national ID cards have been a major problem in the last couple of years in Cameroon. Many Cameroonians go for years without ever obtaining the credential they apply for.

Others have been forced to resort to bribes in order to have their cards delivered within reasonable time. This problem has led to a huge backlog of thousands of unissued cards which needs to be cleared.

In his response, PM Dion Ngute admitted the enormity of the problem and the inconvenience it causes to citizens. However, he said the problem will not be there for too long given that state authorities are not sleeping.

PM blames double identity issues for card delays

The PM regretted that one of the issues causing problems with the current system is that of double identity, as many civil status documents submitted during the application process are detected as fake by the national ID production centre.

“The delays witnessed some times in the process of issuing national ID cards are part of efforts to protect the Cameroonian nationality in a context where all forms of identity fraud exist. In some cases, some of the civil status documents submitted for the issuance of an ID are fake,” he said.

All documents submitted at the time of enrollment, the PM explained, are transmitted via digital means to the national centre for the production of identity documents in Yaounde for validation and eventual production of the cards.

“The validation process consists in ensuring the authenticity of the documents submitted by the applicant and ensures that the information given by an applicant is the same with that contained in the database of the DGSN. It is important to note that it is at this stage that many of the difficulties happen,” Dion Ngute stated.

A solution to the problem of fake civil registration documents could be around soon, maybe, as the government is working to digitalize the CRVS system.

Other than the issue of double identity, the PM also cited problems such as the instability of the system used to transmit applicants’ information from identification posts to the national production centre in Yaounde, as well as a disruption to the supply chain of materials used for the production of the cards by global problems such as COVID.

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