THE Passport and Immigration Agency (PICA) has reported that a total of 2,449 passport fraud cases were detected and prosecuted in Jamaica between 2009 and 2019.
According to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), PICA data has shown a movement in annual occurrences, from 228 occurrences in 2009, to 317 detected in 2019. Additionally, the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) has reported that 1,072 cases of forged birth certificates were detected by that agency between 2010 and 2018.
The information was provided by the OPM through its principal director for the NIDS project, Shereika Hemmings-Allison, at Tuesday’s meeting of the joint select committee of Parliament reviewing the newly tabled National Identification and Registration Act (NIRA), 2020, also known as the NIDS Bill, at Gordon House.
“I think it is important to point out to this committee that the occurrence of identity theft and financial crimes is on the increase in Jamaica,” Hemmings-Allison said, noting that the NIDS Bill is envisaged to advance, significantly, the delivery of more efficient services, reducing transactional bureaucracy and improving the quality of the public services.
“So, we see that identity theft is a real risk, but the system has been designed to ensure that that risk is mitigated, so that the system will achieve the purpose of creating a robust identifying system for the benefit of the individuals,” she added.
She said that, with this in mind, the NIDS team anticipates that it will strengthen identity security and cybersecurity, while simplifying bureaucracy.
Hemmings-Allison said that, in terms of the guiding principles, protecting the identity information of every person is a shared responsibility between the Government, citizens and the residents. She also noted that identity information is the property of the person who has been identified, and their consent will be required for its use subject to exceptions that may be set out.
“The types of data to be collected, the purposes for which personal data is collected and its subsequent use must be limited to fulfilling the purposes set out in the law, and only the prescribed biographic and minimum biometric data will be taken,” she explained.
In terms of guiding principles, she noted that the legislation will contain provisions for the establishment NIRA with its own functions and powers.
Amongst the powers to be granted to the NIRA are to prevent identity theft and other instances of fraud with respect to identity information, and to provide for the discharge of the statutory functions of the registrar general by an office established within NIRA and under the management and control of the authority.
Noting the constitutional court’s ruling against the mandatory nature of the previous NIDS Bill last year had bearing on these issues, the OPM team said that the judgement was instrumental in the re-crafting of the functions of the NIRA.
The authority is now solely charged with the management of identity information of citizens and persons ordinarily resident in Jamaica, in the manner specified under the Bill, and in accordance with certain principles and standards such as those stated in the Data Protection Act.
The authority must also seek to prevent identity fraud, by the implementation of the newly proposed system, while promoting an enabling environment for the achievement of Vision 2030.