Gov’t to get rid of life certificate regime for pensioners

THE Andrew Holness-led Administration has pledged to eliminate the need for a life certificate as proof that an individual is still alive — in order to receive National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and/or government pension benefits — with the introduction of a new national civil registration solution.

This initiative, which falls under the National Identification System (NIDS) project, is among a raft of innovations the Government will be embarking on this year as it continues to digitise and streamline its services.

NIDS is an electronic form of identity that will provide a comprehensive and secure database for capturing and storing the personal information of citizens and non-nationals ordinarily resident in the country.

Making the announcement during his contribution to the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Floyd Green said the Government is in the process of procuring the civil registry solution which will enable the linking of all records — birth, marriage, deed poll and death.

“We have a process in Jamaica that is called a life certificate. People who are on the NIS pension, every four months they have to find a justice of the peace (JP) who has to verify that they are still alive. The most vulnerable among us have to go to get a JP to say that they are alive, and why that happens is because there’s no link between our records. So, if somebody passes away there is no automatic process for you to know. This Government will get rid of the life certificate regime, so we are procuring a new civil registry solution to link all our records and we’re going to be introducing our national identification system,” he said.

Green further announced that under NIDS, Fujitsu Caribbean (Jamaica) Limited has completed the construction and set-up of the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) records digitisation and indexing facility, and successfully conducted a pilot that has digitised and indexed more than 2,300 civil records.

“This project will digitise all the records at the RGD, from 1930 to the present. We have already employed and trained 29 [people] and we are seeking to employ an additional 11 people. When we are finished, graduates will be certified in digitisation and we expect them now to move across Government to help in the digitisation process,” he said.

He said the Government will also be embarking on printing birth certificates in Braille this year in order to accommodate visually impaired customers.

“This will be executed through a partnership with the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), Jamaica Society for the Blind, and other relevant stakeholders. This will be a pioneering effort within the English-speaking Caribbean. It will ensure that those who are visually impaired and those who are blind feel included in what we do here in Jamaica,” he said.

Additionally, Green announced that in the second quarter of this year customers will be able to get their RGD products delivered to their doorstep as the agency will be reintroducing its certificate delivery service.

“So people do not need to come to the offices. They can apply online and they can pay for delivery and get the delivery directly to them,” he said, adding that people will now be able to apply for their first free birth certificate online, instead of the previous requirement to make the application at RGD offices.

Turning to the “dead lef” issue which relates to estate disputes concerning deceased persons who have not left a will, Green said the RGD plans to introduce an online will drafting and recording service this year that will help Jamaicans draft and register their will at the RGD.

In addition, he said the RGD will be working with parish councils to set up a system whereby notifications about Jamaicans dying overseas and being buried in Jamaica will be sent to the RGD.

“There are a number of Jamaicans who die overseas; they come to Jamaica to be buried but the RGD has no record of that burial. We are going to be working with parish councils, as they have the burial records, to ensure that we can close that loop.”

Green also announced that more self-service kiosks are to be installed at all RGD branches, which will provide a convenient and efficient way for customers to complete various tasks such as making applications, tracking the processing of applications, and completing other types of transactions. One has already been installed at the RGD’s head office.

“This year [we] will not just install the kiosks at RGD offices but we are going to go to high-traffic government offices — like the tax office — so that if you go to the tax office you can also do the RGD’s business, instead of having to travel to multiple places to get that done,” he said.