World Bank applauds Lesotho

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – World Bank has lauded government of Lesotho for providing its population with a trusted, unique, and verifiable identity from birth to death. It said by putting people at the centre, Ministry of Home Affairs had laid a solid foundation for a simpler, more efficient government. “Since its launch in 2013, Lesotho’ national ID system has steadily expanded coverage and strengthened links to service delivery,” World Bank said in a statement on Tuesday.

It said the cornerstone of civil registration (CR) and identification in Lesotho was the National Identity Register (NIR), “which is underpinned by a digital database and identity management system that uses biometric technology to confirm the uniqueness of identities”. Trusted and inclusive identification systems, World Bank added, have been shown to reduce poverty and inequality, foster financial inclusion, facilitate safe and orderly migration, improve public sector efficiency, and more.

In order to provide the greatest benefit to citizens, it added, both the civil registration and identification systems must be accessible to all. “The national ID covers an estimated 85 percent of the eligible population (that is, a little over 1.2 million people of a total eligible population of 1.4 million), compared to the sub-Saharan Africa average of 71 percent,” it said. “There are larger gaps to bridge for civil registration, with 44.5 percent of children under the age of 5 having had their birth registered in 2018 and a death registration rate of 38 percent in 2019,” it added.

To reach the approximately 200 000 people without a national ID, World Bank said ministry of home affairs launched an initiative to make the national ID more accessible to those living in rural areas and among marginalized and vulnerable groups who may be socially excluded, lack the supporting documentation needed to obtain an ID.

It said some people could not obtain IDs because they are constrained in their mobility. “Lesotho is a small mountainous country, with some regions accessible only by horseback or helicopter,” it said.

“Partnering with the World Bank, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Public Service, and Ministry of Social Development, the NICR invested in mobile registration technology that allows the department to temporarily scale up capacity at its 10 district offices to meet demand and carry out registration drives outside their offices,” it added.

It said these watertight suitcases contained all the equipment required to register a birth or issue a national ID anywhere in the country-including in someone’s home. Between 2018 and 2020, according to the World Bank, ministry of home affairs expanded access to the ID among civil servants and civil pensioners. From June to October 2020, it said, NICR staff travelled by horseback into rural areas with mobile registration kits, visiting the homebound and issuing 6 187 new IDs.

“The results of this initiative illustrate how investing in technology can help put citizens at the center of service delivery-increasing accessibility and improving user experience,” World Bank said. Just as important, it further said, the expansion of national ID coverage was being used to improve the efficiency of public expenditure and increase public trust in the government’s stewardship of resources.

“The Ministry of Public Services is using the ID to verify the uniqueness and liveness of civil servants and civil pensioners. The Ministry of Finance is utilizing the ID system to verify the eligibility of Old Age Pensioners,” it said.

It indicated that these initiatives were already generating fiscal savings and helping promote trust and accountability in the management of public resources.

It also indicated that the efforts of the department national ID and Civil Registry represent an impressive start on the Mountain Kingdom’s journey toward using a trusted and inclusive identification system to unlock shared growth and prosperity-all made possible by putting citizens at the centre.

The World Bank statement is a pat on the shoulder for the ministry of home affairs which recently been under fire from all sides amid concerns that government was failing to decisively deal with disturbing reports of human trafficking.

This was after the United States of America’s Ambassador, Rebecca Gonzales, had warned Lesotho risked losing billions of maloti in funding under Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) second compact as well as eligibility for the African growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) unless the country addressed hum trafficking concerns by February 1, 2020.

Lesotho was placed in Tier 3, the lowest ranking in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2020. Last month home affairs minister, Motlalentoa Letsosa, said government had submitted its report to the US government detailing measures it had taken to address America’s concerns about human trafficking in Lesotho.

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