Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Paul Duncan | Use TRN to clean voters' list

Published:Friday | September 30, 2016 | 9:00 AMPaul Duncan

Your front-page article in The Gleaner dated September 22 and headlined 'Dead voters still haunt electoral process' has left me utterly frustrated. Will someone please put some fire under these agencies' butts!

The director of elections, Orrette Fisher, said that before he can do anything about dead people on the voters' list, he would need a system that gives each person a unique number that would be used by the individual in all transactions with public entities.

Hello, Mr Fisher, that's what the taxpayer registration number (TRN) has been doing for decades! We can't do any business with the Government without a TRN. One can't file taxes, can't buy a car, can't open a bank account, can't buy or sell land seriously, can't get health or life insurance, can't get a loan from the private or public sector.

But I can die or vote without having one?

And the excuse I can see coming is - this is a TRN and we can't disenfranchise anyone if they are not registered taxpayers. But we violate people's privacy by collecting your 10 fingerprints.

Listen, if you introduce a national ID, you will still have to make it mandatory to have it to be enumerated, so why not make it a requirement to have a TRN? At least that will also help ensure we are all on the tax radar and that we are all paying our fair share, instead of continuing to bleed those of us ensconced in the system by virtue of being employed and having our tax via PAYE taken before we ever see a cent.

But no, rather than taking what we have already, we are willing to spend millions of US dollars to get another ID number that we will then take years and millions of dollars before it is pervasive enough to make a difference, while we continue to wring our hands and complain that we can't remove dead people from the voters' list.

And the Registrar General's Department (RGD) how is the creation of a national ID going to fix your claim of lack of death registration anymore than requesting a TRN?

And I don't really buy that story about poor compliance. I have had to bury too many family members and have been through the process of having to get death certificates to feel that it's anywhere near the numbers claimed. But even if it is, how about creating an incentive to register, or working with the police to ensure that they are registered.

 

A FORM OF INCENTIVE

 

Tie the death benefits to the registration process, or some other form of incentive.

The reality is this: Failure at the RGD is not only a problem for the Electoral Office, but also government pensions and NIS. Right now, the Accountant General's Department spends millions a year processing something called a life certificate because they don't know if they have a pensioner that has died. Seriously, every month or so, you insult our elderly by asking them to send a 'heartbeat' document called a life certificate so they can collect their pittance.

The banks would also love to have access as well, so now they could have a clearer indicator and better 'know-your-client' capabilities, so instead of having dormant accounts because no one has told them someone is deceased, they could check the RGD (Because guess what? The banks already have TRNs in their database).

So, people, surprise me. I keep hearing that we are going to push for efficiencies, we are looking for ways to maximise technology and access to information, improve transparency. This one act can take a huge step to fixing a lot of problems for many areas in our country, and perhaps, most important, for our pensioners. Let's stop finding problems and find a solution.

- Email feedback to pduncan428@gmail.com and columns@gleanerjm.com.