Case 3.1 – National Identification Card

Case 3.1 – National Identification Card

The PNG National Identification (NID) card project was launched in November 2014 and slated to become a universal ID card for all Papua New Guinean citizens. The card would contain information on births, marriages, and deaths and become ID registers. It was a joint project with the Electoral Commission, Civil Registry and the National Statistical Office (NSO) (Yama, 2014).

The former Minister for National Planning and Monitoring, Charles Abel, said K55 million had been allocated in the 2015 National Budget to fund the project. The new ID cards would enable its holders to open bank accounts and access small business loans, subsidized health care and school fees. In February 2016, Mr Abel announced that over 150,000 people registered with the NID with the office rolling out offices in various provinces including Morobe, Eastern Highlands and East New Britain (Post-Courier, 2016).

However in January 2016 it became clear that it was not possible to get all the NID cards issued before the start of the 2017 General Election. National Capital District governor Powes Parkop led the criticism, saying the project should have started immediately following the 2012 general election as this would have given it enough time to register all eligible voter (Loop PNG, 2016).

It is not clear how the K55 million in public funding was expanded in the 2015 financial year and if the failure of the project to register all eligible voters before the start of the 2017 General Election warrants further examination by oversight institutions. To date, the project partners Electoral Commission, Civil Registry and the NSO are yet to release public documents showing how the K55 million was expanded.

In 2018, the NID Project once again came under the spotlight when the National Chief Statistician Roko Koloma of the National Statistical Office (NSO) refused to surrender to police when he was called in for questioning for an alleged misuse of K24 million assigned to the NSO (Zarriga, Post Courier, 2018). Mr Koloma’s refusal sparked calls for his suspension by organisations such as Transparency International Papua New Guinea where TIPNG Chairman Lawrence Stephens called for Mr Koloma and all citizens to comply with the efforts of legal authorities who are exercising constitutional powers on behalf of us all (Loop PNG, 2018).

The police obtained a warrant of arrest on April 13, 2018 but was not in effect after Koloma obtained an interim stay order and made an application to the Waigani Committal Court. In July, 2018 the application was refused by Magistrate Cosmas Bidar who stated that the police are entitled to apply for a warrant of arrest at any court and are entitled to carry out their constitutional duties (The National, 2018). In September 2018, the Public Service Minister Mr Elias Kapavore announced the suspension of Koloma as the National Statistician and said that a Government team led by Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari will investigate the alleged misuse of K24 million in the NSO (Faiparik, The National, 2018).

Although the NID registration has continued, there are complaints that the serious lack of funding for the project has hindered the progress in several parts of the country such as Morobe which needs K200 000 annually to successfully implement the project in the province (Ukaha, The National, 2018). There is currently an ongoing Teacher NID registration Project aimed at registering the teachers nationwide which began on the 24th of December 2018 and is expected to be completed by the end of March, 2019 (Loop PNG, 2019).

In January 2019, at the opening of the new NID office at Waigani, the Minister for National Planning and Monitoring Mr Richard Maru announced that by the end of 2019, the Department aims to have no less than two million people registered and have NID cards (Wali, Post Courier, 2019). To ensure there are no delays in reaching the target, Mr Maru has directed the registrar general to investigate and secure printers capable of printing 5000 NID cards a day.

Despite these efforts, members of the public continue to raise concerns on the lengthy and slow processes involved in registering and acquiring an NID card. These concerns have prompted Minister Maru to urge the NID officers to fast-track the delivery of the project in the country (Gerega, Post Courier, 2019). Reports reveal that the NID registration of 120,000 adults and 39, 000 children are still pending however Minister Maru announced that the new NID Office at Waigani is expected to operate 24 hours a day with three shifts employing new graduates (Gerega, Post Courier, 2019). This is welcoming news as hundreds of people including recent graduates from universities will be employed to work in the successful delivery of the project.

The NID Project has had its fair share of media coverage in recent times and most citizens are looking forward to the successful completion of the project. However, the lack of funding and logistics are some of the problems that continue to seriously affecting the operations of the project. The Government should divert more resources to the NID Project to successfully complete this project. Minister Maru’s recent comments on the employment of more workers in the registration process and the increase of NID card production per day will certainly be a positive step in the right direction for the project.

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~ Reference/Bibliography ~

National Identity Project a failure. Loop PNG. (2016, January 12). Retrieved from http://www.looppng.com/content/national-identity-project-failure

Zarriga, M. (2018, February 11). Koloma Invited by Police to be Interviewed. Post Courier. Retrieved from https://postcourier.com.pg/koloma-invited-police-interviewed/

Koloma’s actions rebuked. Loop PNG. (2018, February 15). Retrieved from http://www.looppng.com/png-news/koloma%E2%80%99s-actions-rebuked-73469

Court refuses Koloma’s application. The National. (2018, June 28). Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/court-refuses-kolomas-application/

Faiparik, C. (2018, September 28) Team to Investigate claim K24mil misused at NSO. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/team-to-investigate-claim-k24mil-misused-at-nso/

Ukaha, J. (2018, May 23) Lack of funding holds up NID project. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/lack-funding-holds-nid-project/

Teachers’ NID registration underway. Loop PNG. (2019, January 10). Retrieved from http://www.looppng.com/png-news/teachers%E2%80%99-nid-registration-underway-81765

Wali, M. (2019, January 15) New Moale Haus to up NID Registration. Post Courier. Retrieved from https://postcourier.com.pg/new-moale-haus-nid-registration/

Gerega, L. (2019, January 15) Maru – Speed up NID. Post Courier. Retrieved from https://postcourier.com.pg/maru-speed-nid/

Gerega L. (2019, January 15) NID Registration for 120,000 Adults, 39,000 Children Still Pending. Post Courier. Retrieved from https://postcourier.com.pg/nid-registration-120000-adults-39000-children-still-pending/