By Mandy Pondani:
National Registration Bureau (NRB) has come under wide condemnation for its failure to fulfill some of its mandates of printing death and birth certificates in the last three months.
Our investigations have established that this has been due to poor network infrastructure, thereby leading to a backlog of applications at both district, regional and national level.
Inside sources have confided in us that the backlog at NRB headquarters currently hovers around 150.
One of senior assistant registration officers in the Northern Region who opted for anonymity for fear of reprisals confirmed the development saying the bureau is struggling to meet most of its obligations.
“For some time now, we have been unable to wire the applications that we receive from people to our headquarters due to network challenges. Internet connectivity is too slow. We share the concerns of the people but perhaps there is not much we can do. The problems we are facing are supposed to be solved at higher level,” he said.
The officer said they barely go to the headquarters in Lilongwe to collect the documents due to resource constraints.
Some of the applicants we have talked to have complained that they have been unable to access some services due to unavailability of death certificates of their relations.
Davison Kayira of Mzuzu but a student at University of Malawi’s The Polytechnic said Wednesday, since the death of his father last year, he has been trying to apply for a student’s loan at Higher Education Student Loans and Grants Board he but has been unsuccessful because the death certificate for his father is not yet issued.
He said his future remains in jeopardy if NRB does not work on its inefficiencies.
“My father was our sole benefactor, as I speak, no one can manage to pay university fees for me. All my hope was vested in the loans’ board, but the board is asking for the death certificate as evidence for my application and yet NRB keeps letting me down. So, it’s a serious concern,” Kayira said.
Magret Malimbasa said processes for her late husband’s estate have stalled at the Administrator General’s office due to the same problem.
“I have been making trips to NRB for over three months but I am given one excuse after the other. I am beginning to think, as a country, we rushed in getting the bureau because we can’t continue with such system failures, it’s retrogressive!” Malimbasa said.
But NRB spokesperson Norman Fulatira said the complainants have exaggerated the time saying the period that the bureau has experienced erratic connectivity between the headquarters and the district registry offices cannot exceed three weeks.
Fulatira said, in an effort to deal with the challenge of connectivity, NRB is switching from using the Baobab Health network infrastructure to Government Wide Area Network (Gwan) Optic Fibre, which, he said, will improve service delivery.
So far, he said, 24 district registration offices have been moved to Gwan infrastructure.
“The backlog is at district registration offices where records have not been entered, mostly in districts of Chitipa, Lilongwe, Ntcheu and Blantyre, where NRB is piloting universal and compulsory death registration. In the other districts, death registration is currently on demand and, whenever there is a connectivity challenge, records can be entered at NRB Headquarters,” Fulatira said.
He said NRB is currently working on decentralising printing of certificates to all district registration offices.
Currently, certificate printing is done at NRB Headquarters with a capacity to print over 1,000 certificates per day.