Unbridled rot by some officials of the birth and death registry has led to foreigners acquiring Ghanaian passports.
Walk into any of the offices of the birth and death registry, and you will find out how easy it is for a foreigner or non-Ghanaian to get a Ghanaian birth certificate.
With just a few Ghana cedis, a Cameroonian, Togolese or Nigerian can become a Ghanaian on paper. In fact, you need less than 150 cedis to be a Ghanaian.
Unfortunately Ghanaian citizens, who elect to use the proper procedure, go through nightmare to get a birth certificate.
Sadly these unapproved fees from the public end up in private pockets.
The passport office in Accra is one of the centres foreigners who acquire Ghanaian birth certificates come to secure traveling documents.
There is the story of an Ivorian woman who was arrested for using a fake birth certificate to apply for a passport.
Wearing a purple tie and dye top on a pair of denim jeans, she cupped her face in her palms and wept. Diana Dienahou is her Ivorian name but she used Diana Appiah to apply for a Ghanaian passport.
Her accomplice was a Ghanaian who assisted her to acquire the birth certificate.
He is a tall young man wearing white T-shirt and a pair of brown khaki trousers. He took only 100 cedis or 20 US dollars to grant Diana Ghanaian citizenship.
A top official at the passport office told Joy News Kwetey Nartey passport office officials receive volumes of falsified Ghanaian birth certificates from foreigners who hope to acquire passports. These non-Ghanaians either falsify the names of their mothers or fathers.
“Thankfully the stringent scrutiny of the documents presented and the profiling of passport applicants at this office have helped to expose this illicit act,” a top official at Passport Office.
What is a birth certificate?
A birth certificate is the basic document an individual can present to assert their right to citizenship.
According to UNICEF, without a birth certificate, an individual does not officially exist and therefore lacks the legal right to access the privileges and protections of a nation.
This means if foreign nationals have Ghanaian birth certificates in their possession, it grants them the permission to access healthcare, education and social services at the disposal of citizens.
So who are these individuals assisting foreigners at the registry to acquire Ghanaian birth certificates. It remains a mystery even to those officials at the passport office though they arrest a number of these foreigners daily.
Joy News investigative journalist Kwetey Nartey first started his investigations from the birth and death registry’s main office at the ministries. He encountered a staff of the registry who identified himself only as Charles. I caught up with him while he was assisting a Nigerian to get a birth certificate. He charged one hundred cedis 100
But birth is registered for free. However, it is the late registration which attracts a processing and penalty charge of 50 cedis. Those wanting to do a search pay 5 cedis.
I met Charles, tall young man wearing a strapped violet short-sleeved shirt who charges 100 cedis for what he calls an executive search.
He charged me an additional 150 cedis for a new birth certificate, adding that he depends on his network in other district offices like Ledzokuku to get the work done. In fact he charges 200 percent more than what the registry’s office officially charges.
Another staff who gave his name as Emma charges 80 cedis for birth certificates in cases where applicants were born in other regions.
There was no receipt covering any of these unapproved fees despite persistent requests.
But how pervasive is this practice of charging unapproved fees by officials of the birth and death registry?
For answers, Joy News Kwetey Nartey went to the Central regional registry with a birth certificate had a wrongly spelt name. The purpose was to find out how much I would be charged to have the right name on paper.
The registrar of the regional birth and death registry told me it will cost 120 cedis. However I was told that the same birth certificate will attract 80 cedis for alteration of the name. This was in Cape Coast. In Winneba the same service was 150 cedis if one wanted it fast tracked.
The official said they use the difference for transportation. The officer in charge who appears to be in his early thirties had initially agreed to take 50 cedis if I wanted to go through the proper procedure.
There was another story in Koforidua registry of birth and death.
In Koforidua, the investigative team was asked to pay 50 cedis after swearing an affidavit. This was no different when they sent same birth certificate to the 37th military hospital for correction. The team was charged 50 cedis and asked to go and swear an affidavit.
This legal requirement was waived during the investigations in the central region.
The birth and death registry at the Adabraka polyclinic had another story. An official who gave his name as Dennis charged 150 cedis for it to be done in a week. Kwetey Nartey who was leading the investigations made a down payment of 50 cedis. He wasn’t given a receipt for this even though that’s the standard procedure.
Charging unapproved fees is not the only malfeasance workers of the birth and death registry have been involved in.
The 2016 Report of the Auditor General found the registrar of the birth and death registry in Suhum charging unapproved fees.
“We noted that the Registrar at the Births and Deaths Registry charged an amount of GH¢50.00 for a Birth Certificate from 575 clients instead of the approved fee of GH¢20.00.
“The revenue collector however paid in GH¢11,500.00 to cover the total service rendered to the 575 clients. The difference of GH¢17,250.00 was not accounted for.
Lack of public knowledge on the requirements for acquiring a Birth Certificate and fees payable accounted for the practice,” the report said in part.
In another instance the same report found out that the registrar of Wa Births and Deaths Registry, Francis Kupo diverted over 220,000 of state funds into his private account.
“Our review of the Registry’s records revealed that the Registrar failed to lodge a total revenue of GH¢224,760.00 into the approved bank account.
Plan Ghana, an NGO on 25 January 2015 released the amount for registration of 10,000 child births in deprived districts in the Upper West Region. The Registrar, Mr. Francis Kupo, failed to issue official receipt for the fees and rather lodged the amount into a private welfare at the National Investment Bank, Wa,” the report found.
That was not all.
The auditor general found bank transfers of over 175,000 cedis by the Sekondi birth and death registry into an HFC bank account.
“Our review of revenue records and bank statements disclosed that a total revenue of GH¢175,860.00 collected by the Registry between 16 March, 2016 and 1 September, 2016 was paid to HFC Bank Limited, Takoradi.
“However, management could not provide evidence to support the transfer of the said amount into the Consolidated Fund Bank Account.
“A revenue collector at the Akim Oda birth and death registry also collected over 12,000 cedis for issuing birth and death certificates without receipts. The total cash collections were allegedly sent to the Registrar at the Regional Office, Koforidua for the issuance of Treasury Counterfoil Receipts.
“However, no Treasury Counterfoil Receipts were produced to acknowledge the alleged payments to the Regional Registrar,” the report.
The financial administration regulation 2004, enjoins all heads of government institutions which generate revenue to charge approved fees for services rendered.
Official response from the birth and death registry?
This is wrong, according to the registrar of the birth and death registry Rev Kingsley Addo.
The prescribed fee for late registration and correction of names is 50 cedis. The registrar says anyone who charges beyond this fee is in breach of the standard procedure.
Some workers have been sanctioned, suspended and their promotions held because of such practices. The registrar said these measures were taken to serve as deterrent.
Meanwhile the registrar of birth and death Rev Kingsley Addo is implementing a number of measures to deal with the problem.
But it has been suggested by persons familiar with this menace for applicants to be screened and interviewed as steps to end it.
The clock continues to tick as foreigners acquire Ghanaian birth certificates.