Biometrics for better government finances

Nigeria saves $11 million after removing 20,000 ‘ghost workers’ (Hindustan Times)

Nigeria’s government has removed more than 20,000 non-existent workers from its payroll following an audit, leading to savings of 2.29 billion naira ($11.53 million) from its monthly wage bill, the Finance Ministry said on Sunday.

The audit used biometric data and a bank verification number (BVN) to identify holders of bank accounts into which salaries were being paid.

Banking biometrics taking off in West Africa

A couple of stories out today from West Africa’s largest country, Nigeria, and perhaps its most respected, Ghana, tell of adoption of large-scale biometric deployments in finance.

Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) has disclosed that over 18 million customers have so far enrolled for the Biometric Verification Number (BVN) exercise (The Sun)

Eight foreign remittance firms join Ghana’s e-Zwich (Modern Ghana)

Challenges abound in Nigeria’s biometric election

Smart Card Readers: INEC’s excuse (Vanguard)

The spokesperson, who admitted this was not the only flaw identified in the new electoral process deployed during the election, said the Commission had taken note of the challenges and would effect corrections in subsequent elections to ensure that the exercise was more credible and acceptable.

While the article deals with the technical challenges of the biometric technology, and the mixed response to those, Nigeria confronts other challenges that make proper elections difficult regardless of the technology used for casting votes.

Nigeria vetting public sector pensioners with biometrics

Nigeria: Govt to Commence Nationwide Verification of Pensioners (All Africa)

…[T]he departments within its supervision include the civil service pension, police pension, pensioner support service, information technology and corporate support services as well as Treasury Funded Parastatals Pension.

She noted that verification exercise is expected to among other things, eliminate ghost pensioners, and halt the duplication of payments; Correct and eradicate anomalies such as over payments and under payments; pay pensions, gratuities, death benefits and other pensioner entitlements; update records of next of kins; and enrol new pensioners.

She said PTAD had also succeeded in establishing a robust complaints resolution mechanism which had improved services to pensioners.

Leap-frogging in Nigeria

Here’s another example of biometrics being used to leap-frog the technologies and methods other countries have used in the past to build an ID infrastructure. Even if the Nigerian government had the resources to attempt a paper-heavy, labor-intensive duplication of the systems some countries built in the early twentieth century, it isn’t at all clear that it could produce a better outcome than cheaper biometrics.

NIGERIA: Banks to Start Biometric Customer Registration on Friday (Daily Times)

“There will be teething problems, but we will learn from it. The biometric initiative is being pursued by the Bankers’ Committee,” the Access Bank boss said.

The Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Mr. Ugochukwu Okoroafor, said the biometric system, when fully operational, would help to improve credit in the economy and boost the nation’s macro- economy.

Okoroafor said, “Nigeria runs on cash; there is no identity. We don’t know who is who. We are now going into identity confirmation. We can now create a credit system that will power our economy.

“Banks don’t want to lend because of identity issue. We want to move Nigeria from cash system to credit system that has identity.”

Nigeria: The ghost worker numbers in this piece are shocking

Boyo: Ghost workers and indulgent exorcists (The Guardian – Nigeria)

♦ A 2010 staff audit of the Nigeria Police Force revealed over 100,000 ghost police officers out of 330,000 officially registered policemen.

♦ In 2011, the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board reported losses of N2.4 billion (approx $26 million) annually to 1,477 ghost workers

♦ In the same month, after conducting a biometric audit, The National Identity Management Commission uncovered 4,000 ghost workers out of about 10,300 employees on its payroll.

♦ The Ekiti State government loses over N3 billion annually to ghost workers out of a projected annual budget of N80 billion.

There are many more examples at the link.

The workers are ghosts. The money is real.

It’s too bad ghost workers don’t earn ghost money.

Nigeria: Taming the Ghost Workers (Indepth Africa)

The ghost workers were detected through the biometric initiative undertaken by the Federal Government. Okonjo-Iweala declared that it was shocking that the Federal Government had survived it this far considering the level of graft on the public payroll. During the last exercise, FG uncovers 46,821 ghost workers!

Accordingly, the minister said the biometric exercise would be pursued vigorously in the coming days with a view to plugging loopholes and to save funds for the government to deploy in critical areas of need.

N118.9billion was saved.

XE Currency Converter

If that’s not some serious RoI, somebody has a lot of explaining to do.

BigID and the changing nature of national identity infrastructures

Nigeria’s new ID has apps!

Credit card linked to Nigerian ID (Financial Mail)

In the programme’s first phase, Nigerians aged 16 and older and all who have been resident there for more than two years will get the new multipurpose ID, which has 13 applications. It is expected that up to 13m Nigerians will use the product in the first phase.

Among the apps is MasterCard’s prepaid technology, which will give cardholders the ability to make electronic payments. MasterCard says this will also have a positive impact on Nigerians who until now have not had access to mainstream financial services.

This one bears keeping an eye on.

In a couple of pioneering cases, the very concept of “The ID” is shifting

To most people, an ID looks a lot like a product — something useful that the government sells to an individual. Pay your fee; get your card. Lose your card; buy a new one.

India and Nigeria (South Africa is pretty bold, too) are pointing the way toward a future where ID isn’t just a product, though no government is going to give up its ID card product line any time soon. The future as these countries see it is ID as a government-backed platform supporting an ID ecosystem. They have the bucket (database structure). Now it’s being filled (populated). If they get the application programming interface/s (API) right, fasten your seat belt. Things will get really interesting really fast as all sorts of apps hooking into the ID infrastructure become available. Biometric technologies will be an integral part of this transition to “BigID.”

UPDATE:
See also:
Brainstorming UID with Srikanth Nadhamuni
The video there is very informaative and extremely worthwhile.

UPDATE II:
I forgot to mention the UAE as another forward-thinking ID environment. The UAE ID is set to be deployed on smartphones.

US & EU to help Nigeria with fingerprint biometrics in counter-terrorism effort

Insecurity: US, EU renew support for Nigeria (The Nation)

“We have figure prints of possible over 10 million travellers at the same time in a system. We are expanding in Nigeria, Chad, Burkina Faso and we are doing a major upgrade in Ghana. We are possessing about 10 thousand finger prints per week in West Africa.”

When reporters sought to know what the US stood to gain in the partnership, Moro responded that the assistance was at no cost to the country but an extension of a hand of fellowship from a caring ally.

Other members of the delegation are: Mr. Dwight Brown, Miss Theresa Keens, Mr. David Svendsen, Mary Johnson, Thaddaeus Hoyt and Diana Kohn, who are programmes personnel at the US Embassy.

The European Union also renewed its continued support to the Federal Government “until terrorism is defeated”. Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Dr David MacRae, dropped the hint at a media luncheon hosted by the commission in Abuja.

This news article from yesterday provides important context.

Nigeria: Boko Haram Threat Chokes Trade With Cameroon (All Africa)

Cameroon has stepped up security over the Boko Haram (BH) threat.

In November 2011, Nigeria shut its border with Cameroon, prompting Yaoundé to bolster security in the largely Muslim Far North Region, close dozens of Koranic schools and hand over suspected BH members to Nigeria, which reopened the border in 2012.

Despite the intensified security, suspected BH militants on 19 February abducted seven French tourists, including four children, from a national park in the Far North Region, freeing them two months later.

Cross-border trade sustains the local economy in the Far North Region which sells onions, rice, maize, livestock and other agricultural goods to Nigeria, and imports sugar, cement, textile and electronics.

“Tight border security and checks are making business impossible for some of us. This was worsened by the kidnapping of [the French] tourists. Today all the goods must be checked before entry, and taxes are so high,” said Doudou Yaouba, a trader in Maroua, the regional capital.

This last, detailed, article illuminates major concerns within ECOWAS and among other interested parties. Biometrics can be a leap-frogging technology for providing domestic services, as in India’s UID project. They can also be a leap-frogging technology for bringing less rigorous international security protocols into a standard operating environment where highly sophisticated capabilities can be brought to bear.

Praise for Ghana’s recent elections

We Should Learn From Ghana Experience (PM News)

“Having been based in Ghana as the Nigeria High Commissioner for four years, going back for the last election was an added value to my trip, in the sense that I can confidently say that their last election where I was an observer, was an improvement on what transpired during the previous presidential and parliamentary election in Ghana.

The introduction of the biometric data-based machine actually assisted in terms of verifying and authenticating the voters and orderliness despite the huge turn out. The orderliness demonstrated by Ghanians was highly commendable.”

If I recall correctly (and unlike the recent Ghanaian elections), the last Nigerian elections featured biometric registration but not biometric voter verification. That recollection is supported here, where a Nigerian official expresses hope for 100% biometric voter authentication by 2015, and later in the interview.

More at the link.

Comprehensive biometric census and ID for Nigeria

Nigerians to get ID number (Vanguard)

In a move to curtail insurgency and other criminal challenges confronting the country, the National Population Commission, NPC, has commenced a comprehensive biometric capturing of all Nigerians, with a view to allocating every Nigerian number that would be associated with him or her from birth to death.

It looks like Nigeria aspires to something akin to the National Population Register that India is working on.

Biometrics and ghost workers in Nigeria

Abia’s scourge of ghost workers (The Nation)

When Abia state governor Chief Theodore Orji introduced reforms in the civil service of the state which include promotion of workers due for promotion, approval of N21,000 as minimum wage, retiring those due, transferring of service of non-indigenes to their states of origin after due consultation with their home state, and insistence on biometric data capturing of all workers and pensioners in the state civil service, some cynics who believed in business as usual criticised the reforms severely.

Read the whole thing.

On biometric ID

Director-General, National Identity Management Commission, Mr. Chris Onyemenam, in an interview with Punch:

Many Nigerians are of the view that the issuance of national identification numbers and cards will add no value to their lives, how will you react to this?

That is not true! I don’t think many Nigerians think that way, you will probably be thinking that the cynicism of the past will continue and that’s why we have embarked on an awareness campaign to enlighten people, to make them understand that what we had done in the past might have achieved limited success, but what we are doing today is different from what we did in the past.

In the past, the focus was on the issuance of an identification card; but today, we have made it slightly different to say that what we need first and foremost is to be able to create and manage identities. And one way to manage the identity is to issue the card. The card is not an end in itself but a means to an end; that end is to be able to affirm and confirm your identity that used to be what we ignored in the past.

In the past, we issued identification cards in the mistaken belief that once we issued a card, we have been able to secure and genuinely confirm the identity of an individual, which is not true because if you go to any business centre you can create a photo ID. So, what we do now is to say, what are those things that will be put in place that will be accepted by everybody as a means by which you can affirm your identity?

And one of the key features of that system is the use of the biometrics; the use of biometrics in that sense means that you can always confirm using the biometrics that the identity that has been revealed or that we have sort to confirm is exactly the identity that we want to deal with.

Nigeria: One state losing $400,000 per month to ghost workers

Nigeria: Ekiti Loses N63 Million to Ghost Workers Monthly (All Africa)

[… T]he first physical verification exercise showed that there are 19,258 personnel in the 16 local government areas, while subsequent biometric data capture revealed that there are 19,212 staff.

He said a further check showed that there are 17,889 staff on the nominal roll while 1,323 staff collecting about N63 million on a monthly basis are not on the nominal roll.

Adewumi stated further that for efficiency at the third tier of government, the state government has decided to redeploy 1,756 workers who have National Certificate of Education (NCE) and other education-related qualifications to the State Universal Basic Education Board and the Teaching Service Commission.

This, the commissioner said would relieve the councils of a monthly financial implication of N53 million.

Enrollment vs Authentication: Nigeria seems to get it

Nigerians to get permanent voters card soon (Business Day)

“As you know, we did biometric data registration; before the end of this year, we will start issuing the permanent voter’s card, and these permanent voter’s cards that we are going to issue are chip-based, just like many of our own bank cards. So, they carry all the information on a microchip which is embedded in the card of the card,” he said.

“What we believe we can achieve at the minimum by 2015, is that we can achieve 100 percent authentication at the polling units.

Biometric voter registration without biometric voter authentication at the polling place is, at best, a half step toward an optimal biometric voting system.

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