The General Register Office (GRO) has denied that there is a backlog in the processing of applications for birth certificates.
Recently, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) had raised the issue of the processing of birth certificates, contending that thousands of persons are unable to acquire the document, which is critical in the registration process.
GECOM Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally, had disclosed that the body, which is tasked to ensure that elections are efficiently conducted, is aware that there are “thousands” of persons who would be of voting age, but who could not apply for registration “because they were/are not in possession of birth certificates, since their births were never registered.”
GECOM claimed that it had raised this matter at several levels, including with the Minister of Home Affairs and the Registrar General, and had attempted to push for more speed.
“Further, GECOM had emphasized that the applications for birth certificates be treated with more alacrity by the General Register Office. The objective behind this thrust was to stimulate suitable action, with the result being the registration of the births of the concerned persons so that they could be issued birth certificates to be used to apply for registration.”
However, despite continuously raising the matter for over three years, the results were not satisfactory, it was reported last week.
“To date, the Commission’s representations have not borne the desired fruits, although almost 3.5 years have elapsed since GECOM’s initial and repeated overtures and initiatives.”
According to GECOM, parliamentary political parties had agreed that only original birth certificates and valid passports, along with supporting documents including marriage certificates and deed polls would be accepted as source documents for registration.
“The objective of this agreement was to ensure that only persons who met the eligibility criteria would be registered. The parties had agreed that baptismal certificates, expired passports, photocopies of relevant documents or letters from priests, elders, headmasters, village captains/toshaos and Justices of the Peace, or existing ID cards, will not be acceptable as source documents for registration.”
But Registrar General of the GRO, Greta McDonald, during an interview with the state-owned media, affirmed that there is no backlog of applications at the GRO.
GRO, for January alone, issued 25,300 birth certificates, 3,450 marriage certificates and 2,300 death certificates, that includes those processed from a total of 7,689 applications for birth certificates, 590 for deaths and 1,042 for marriage during the month.
During February 1 to February 14, the GRO received applications for birth, marriage and death certificates to the tune of 4022, 517 and 327 respectively, a government statement said Wednesday.
According to McDonald, the GRO has also been making significant strides in ensuring that residents in Amerindian communities are able to register births and apply for certificates.
Since 2002, the GRO initiated a project called ‘Registration of births for Amerindians’ where officers visited several communities to find out why persons in those communities were not issued with birth certificates.
“We did a lot of work but we did not get to go to all of the villages because of the layout. We worked on it in 2003 to 2006,” the Registrar General said.
In 2006, with the involvement of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, thousands of affidavits were delivered to the GRO for the registration of births for persons to enable them to register for National Identification (ID) cards.
McDonald said that during this time the GRO also received about 5,000 applications on a weekly basis. She hoped that that project would have been completed by now but it continues, as affidavits are still being received from the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs. The GRO is also assisted by the Ministry of Health and the Catholic and Anglican churches in this project. McDonald said that most of the applications for birth certificates that are coming out of these communities now are for children, as those for adults have already been completed.
The Registrar General said that the GRO is therefore not responsible for persons who have not been issued birth certificates as the project started since 2002.
She stated that the project was not initiated for elections but it was based on the GRO’s view that everyone is entitled to a birth certificate.
The processing of certificates takes about four weeks to be completed and each application is marked by the date it is received and dispatched by the GRO. McDonald added that after the four-week processing period, if the applicant is not in receipt, he/she can go into the GRO with proof of application and the transaction will be facilitated there.
There are currently 15 writers in the GRO, with each completing about 100 certificates on a daily basis, it was disclosed.
As soon as an application is received by the GRO processing begins, the official said.
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