Government is set to decentralize births and deaths registry system as part of efforts to build a robust registration system using emerging technologies.
The move comes after the passage of the Registration of Births and Deaths Bill 2020, which was presented and read the first time in Parliament on Thursday, July 16, 2020 by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), Hajia Alima Mahama.
In a memorandum accompanying the bill, the minister stated that one of the major priorities of government is to improve the system and processes for the collection and collation of vital information, particularly information on births and deaths for national development.
According to her, vital registration in Ghana started in 1888 with the registration of deaths under the Cemeteries Ordinance of 1888 which was subsequently amended in 1891.
Birth registration was first introduced in Ghana in 1912 following the passage of the Births, Deaths and Burials Ordinance 1912. The 1912 Ordinance was subsequently repealed with the passage of a new Registration of Births and Deaths Act 1965 (Act 301) to respond to the post-independence births and deaths registration needs of the country.
The registration of Births and Deaths Act 1965 (Act 301) established the Births and Deaths Registry as a centralized department within the MLGRD to develop the registration system and make it compulsory nationwide.
The core mandate of the registry under the law is to collate and keep accurate and reliable information on all births and deaths occurring in the country, as well as provide certification for the two events.
Government said the provisions in the current births and deaths law had become obsolete with the passage of time and indicated that Act 301 does not provide for the registration of surrogate births, notification of births and deaths by supervising professionals, as well as the use of electronic technology for the capture, transmission and storage of births and deaths data.
“The integration of the Births and Deaths Registry with other government agencies, including the National Identification Authority (NIA), the Electoral Commission (EC), the passport office, health facilities and MDAs is also weak,” she pointed out.
The Committee on Local Government and Rural Development said the Births and Deaths Registry currently has a total of 332 personnel operating in 413 registration centres nationwide.
Chaired by the Member of Parliament for Assin Central, Kennedy Agyapong, the committee has noted that this development falls short of the international minimum standards required by the United Nations of a registration centre to every five thousand persons in the population.
“This meant that with Ghana's population estimated at 30,000,000 people, a minimum of 6,000 registration centres is required to provide effective births and deaths registration services to Ghanaians.
“Operating with the current 413 registration centres has created a service delivery deficit which continues to affect national planning due to inadequate data on registered births and deaths in the country,” the committee reported.
It added that registration coverage was, therefore, very low making it difficult for the registry to make any meaningful demographic analysis for the nation. The estimated coverage for registered births as of 2001 was 17 per cent.