Tuesday 1 December, 2020

New NIDS Bill to be tabled by March 31 – Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (file photo)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (file photo)

The Government is pushing to table a new National Identification and Registration (NIDS) Bill by March 31, the end of the 2019-2020 financial year.

That date would be just shy of a year since the NIDS was ruled unconstitutional and struck down in a ruling by the Constitutional Court in April of this year.

Holness, who was speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, said while the Government did not appeal the decision of the court, it was never its intention to abandon the identification aspect of the legislation.

He said many Jamaicans are still having problems conducting regular day-to-day activities, such as dealing with financial institutions, because of their lack of proper identification.

“Let me make it clear that the Government is not abandoning the identification aspects of NIDS.

“Our target is to issue new drafting instructions, with strengthened oversight and security provisions, by January 2020, with the aim to table a new Bill by the end of financial year 2019-2020,” the prime minister stated.

He said the Administration has completed a revived policy that is consistent with the recommendations of the court ruling that is now being “reviewed by our primary stakeholders”.

Holness added that “We expect the review process to be completed in the next two weeks, after which the Cabinet will consider the revised policy.”

Responding to a question from Julian Robinson, the Opposition Spokesman on Science and Technology, Holness said the consultations included the parliamentary Opposition, and a joint select committee of Parliament would be involved, if necessary. Before the NIDS was struck down, the Opposition had argued that it was too important a law to be rushed, and should have been placed before a joint select committee of Parliament.

Meanwhile, Holness told the House that the NIDS project team has embarked on a rescheduling of the main activities under the contract between the Government and the Productive Business Solutions Limited-led consortium. He said the Administration will focus on the ICT-related activities until the requisite legislative framework is put in place, which would give effect to the implementation of the national identification system activities.

The prime minister said the Cabinet, on November 11, approved an amendment to the NIDS Solution Contract “for the disaggregation, adoption and execution of the non-national identification systems activities”. This first amendment will allow the project team to focus on ICT upgrade activities until a new NIDS Bill is tabled, debated and passed into law.

From the original contract sum of US$31.7 million, the PBS-led team is to spend US$6.4 million on the ICT upgrade for the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) and the Registrar General’s Department (RGD). Holness said the money is to be spent to facilitate “urgent needs” at the two entities.

“The Government decided to focus on the initial ICT upgrade to address urgent needs at PICA and the RGD. The remainder of the contract is to cover new systems and infrastructure upgrade, and the implementation of the National Identification System,” Holness said.

With the ICT upgrade set to get under way, Holness insisted that the Government has always pointed out that the NIDS programme was much more than identification.

“This programme was always about modernising Jamaica’s ICT infrastructure to support the effective and efficient delivery of Government services..,” he said.

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