29th May, 2018
By a Policy Directive dated 22nd May 2017, Government of Ghana directed the National Identification Authority (NIA) to engage with Identity Management Systems Ltd (IMS), a subsidiary of the Margins Group, to ensure the efficient roll-out of the National Identification System (NIS) Project. The directive followed Government’s acceptance of the recommendations of a Technical Committee established by the Vice President to study and advice on strategies for implementing the NIS Project. The Government had “determined that the existing agreement between NIA and IMS constitutes a viable and effective vehicle for the implementation of a modern, robust and reliable NIS for Ghana consistent with Government’s stated policy commitments”. Pursuant to the Government’s directive and following all the requisite regulatory and approval processes spanning over seven months, NIA entered into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement with IMS in April 2018 for the implementation of the NIS.
The 1st Phase of the revamped NIS Project Roll-Out took place on 15th September 2017 when the NIA conducted a liveness test of the National Identity Card (“Ghana Card”) issuance process and the registration and instant issuance of the first Ghana Card to His Excellency The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. The 2nd Phase of the Roll-Out of the NIS Project, which entails a national mass registration and card issuance exercise to all Ghanaians, commences on 28th May 2018.
The exercise will initially cover the registration and instant issuance of the Ghana Card to citizens in the security sector, the Judicial Service, Jubilee House, Parliament House and several key influencers in society such as the three former Presidents of Ghana, before being extended to the banking and educational institutions and subsequently to the larger Ghanaian society in the Greater Accra Region. It will then be systematically extended to the rest of the country on a Regional basis as follows: Volta, Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Brong-Ahafo, Western, Ashanti, Eastern and Central Regions. The NIA will spend approximately three months in the Greater Accra Region, two months in Ashanti Region, and one month in each of the other eight Regions. Six months after the start of the national roll-out, the exercise will be extended to Ghanaians in the diaspora; NIA plans to undertake this exercise in close collaboration with Ghanaian Missions abroad and the Office of Diaspora Relations at the Presidency.
Objectives of the NIS Project
The objectives of the Project are to:
- Enable NIA to fulfil its statutory mandate;
- Enable NIA generate revenue to fund its operations and projects;
- Upgrade the NIS to become the foremost source of identification systems in Ghana;
- Register all Ghanaians from birth;
- Issue identity cards to all Ghanaians in and outside Ghana;
- Provide a biometric verification service to all User Agencies;
- Develop a national biometric repository;
- Ensure that Ghana is in line with international standards of biometric identification;
- Harmonize and integrate existing identification registers and eliminate duplication of efforts and waste of national resources by other government agencies;
- Provide the information and communications technology infrastructure, data capture systems, card issuance systems and data exchange Web Service to:
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration (MOFARI) to be used for the provision of an efficient system for issuing passports;
- Licensed telecommunications service providers to be used for the registration and re-registration of SIMs;
- Licensed banks and other financial institutions to be used for all customer due diligence and other identity verifications required for banking and other financial transactions;
- DVLA to be used for the identity verifications required for issuance and renewal of drivers and vehicles licenses; and
- Any other institution that may require the Web Services for any purpose.
- Implement the Project in the manner consistent with the mandate of NIA.
Developmental Impetus& Trust Platform
The revamped NIS Project constitutes a major developmental impetus, particularly in transforming and formalizing the Ghanaian economy, and in enhancing e-governance in the country. It offers tremendous opportunities for all Ghanaians to harness their responsibilities and obligations,and to improve the manner and quality of providing and accessing various Government services through the use of the Ghana Card.
Ghanaians will, for the first time, be able to access e-government and e-commerce services by using the Ghana Card, assured of the security, reliability and traceability of the identities of the bearers of the Ghana Card. The NIS is designed to deliver a trust platform that will enhance our governance and accountability systems and stimulate the economy towards higher productivity, while affording citizens better opportunities to perform their duties and obligations, to exercise their rights, and to enjoy their privileges in a secure environment. It will also contribute to revenue mobilization, digital address tracing, crime control and effective policing in the country. By virtue of sections 2(3) and 18(1)(i) of the National Identification Authority Act, 2006 (Act 707), section 73(1)(f) of the National Identity Register Act, 2008 (Act 750) as amended, and regulation 7 of the National Identity Register Regulations, 2012 (L.I. 2111) as amended, the Ghana Card is to be produced in all transactions where identification is required. The re-invigoration of the NIS Project highlights the seriousness of Ghana’s commitment to ensuring social and economic inclusion through the construction and use of an effective, modern and secure national database of all citizens that is accessed only by persons or institutions authorised by law to do so.
Broad Scope andTechnical Features of the NIS
Contrary to popular misconception, the NIS goes beyond just the issuance of identity cards; it includes citizenship recognition and/or determination, data integration, harmonisation of identification systems, as well as data storage and exchange systems for all Ghanaians living in Ghana or and abroad, from cradle to grave. While this write up is focused on citizens it bears emphasising that the NIS also involves the registration and issuance of Non-Citizen Ghana Cards to all eligible foreign nationals living in the country under the on-going Foreigners Identification System (FIMS) Project
The technical system is built as a decentralised, simultaneous and distributed identification ecosystem.With instant card issuance on a global multi-personalisation platform, the system can issue cards securely from anywhere in the world. Data is exchanged between the Central Site and the registration centres securely in real time, and biometric verification is concluded in approximately four seconds.
There are up to 14 applets that can be loaded on the cards, one of which is a Common Payment Application (CPA). There are three International ID profiles that allow citizens to verify identities internationally and to access digital platforms to undertake electronic transactions. The technical system is world class and is at par with the best practices in the world.
Every Ghanaian aged zero to infinity is to be registered and issued with the Ghana Card. Ghanaians living in Ghana will receive the card at no cost to the individual, while Ghanaians living outside the country will pay a fee for the card.The card is valid for 10 years, after which every citizen will be required to renew it at a fee. Replacement of the card upon loss or destruction at any time will also attract a fee.
Two types of cards will be issued: Ghanaian children under 15 years will receive a two-dimensional (2D) bar code card, while Ghanaians 15 years and above will receive smart, dual-interface chip-embedded cards that can be used in both contact and contactless transactions. The smart card meets the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and has certification from the International Organization for Standardization. It is compliant with the ECOWAS biometric ID card specifications. It also has tactile properties that allow the blind to identify the card.
Some key technical characteristics worth highlighting include:
- A 148-kilobyte smartcard chip which is big enough to allow the storing of up to14 applets for institutions such as NHIA, DVLA, SSNIT and Passport Office. This facility will enable such institutions undertake and exercise their identification mandates on the same Ghana Card at a lower cost. (20K of the 148K chip is taken up by the Operating System)
- An e-Passport profile and application on the card that allow immediate travel across the ECOWAS sub-region without the need for a paper passport
- A Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) that protects our data and the ecosystem from unauthorised access
- A Multi-Personalisation platform that personalises every card issued globally and manages the card life-cycle over the period of validity, including encoding the chip with biometric data and a digital certificate
- The Central Systems have astorage capacity for 40 million facials, 80 million irises and 400 million fingerprints in order to cover growth of population
- The instant issuance of smartcards at all registration centres in and outside Ghana in order to eliminate card distribution cost
- An online registration portal and appointment system that takes away the pain of queuing for many applicants
Choice of PPP and IMS
Lessons from past experiences, limited government financial and technical capacity, and a deep consideration of the most efficient allocation of risk, influenced a PPP agreement with IMS, a Ghanaian owned company, over 15 years as the best option. The appeal and choice of IMS includes the track record of the Margins Group (the parent company of IMS), affordability, knowledge transfer and status as a Ghanaian company that will provide especially high-level technical job experiences to Ghanaians.
The Margins Group has been in the ID business for over 28 years and is the clear leader in this field in this region. It has been involved in the National ID project since 2006 and has produced all the Ghana National ID cards since 2008. There is no other comparable Ghanaian company with the knowledge and capacity of the Margins Group in Ghana and the sub-region. Intelligent Card Production Services (ICPS) Ghana is a sister company of IMS and is the only internationally- certified Security card production facility in Ghana. It is the biggest in sub- Saharan Africa and employs many high-level Ghanaian professionals in this unique field.
The main sub-contractors of IMS have a net worth of billions of dollars, and include NXP (the biggest ID chip manufacturer in the world), Dermalog of Germany (which won the award for the best AFIS awarded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2017) Crypto-vision of Germany, and DataCard, an American company (which is the largest card personalisation company in the world. These consortium of companies are the leaders in their respective fields.
Cost of the NIS Project and Cost Distribution
The whole life cost of the Project is estimated at $1.2 billion over 15 years, with NIA bearing $531 million while IMS takes the remaining $678 million. Ghana needs to raise only $124 million share of the cost as its initial contribution. IMS on the other hand will raise its initial $169 million contribution in a mixture of debt and equity. All subsequent costs will be covered by proceeds from the project. The technical model on which the project is designed has been developed by the Margins Group on NIA’s requirements and needs.
The key cost elements of the project is as follows:
Card Production and Operations
The combined cost of Card Production and Operations cost account for almost 73% of total cost. A total of 88.9 million cards will be issued over the 15 years, made up of 52.2 million smartcards (at $5.40 per card) and 36.7 million two-dimensional (2D) bar code cards (at $1.50 per card).
The operational cost for the 15 years includes the recruitment and training of personnel for the mass registration and card issuance exercise, the registration of all citizens both at home and abroad, development and implementation of comprehensive communication and public education campaigns, establishment of Regional, District and Zonal Offices across the country and at missions abroad to provide daily registration services.
This is estimated at $108 million covering the Central Site, registration equipment, verification systems, disaster recovery systems, card printers, etc.
There will be periodic upgrades of the technical system every five years in line with good industry practice. This is estimated to cost $59.6 million. Maintenance and support of the system are also estimated at $18.1 million, consistent with international benchmarks.
Due Diligence and Value for Money
These costs have undergone Value-For-Money (VFM) audits by the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) and have also been thoroughly assessed by the Public Investments Division of the Ministry of Finance. The contract has also been reviewed by the Attorney-General’s Department and the Legal Unit of the Ministry of Finance. In addition, the contract has been reviewed and given approval by the Public Private Partnership Approval Committee (PPPAC) of the Ministry of Finance, as well as the Economic Management Team of Government. It has also received Cabinet approval. Copies of the Contract were distributed to all 275 members of Parliament, and appropriate waivers for import duty exemptions were also granted by Parliament.
The contract terms and pricing are consistent with the FIMS Pilot Project agreement executed between NIA and IMS in 2012, and the Feasibility Study Report for the present expanded project, which received two approvals by the PPPAC in 2014 prior to the 2018 Final Approval.
Impact on State Coffers
IMS and NIA will require $169 million and $124 million respectively to commence. Unlike other traditional contracts, IMS will not be given any money by the government. NIA will require the government to fund its part. All further costs will be met from the proceeds of the project.
The state has guaranteed an equity rate of return capped at 17%, which is 6 percentage points above the cost of capital of around 11%.These are to be paid from the revenue models. This means that IMS will be making modest profits for the risks it has taken. This revenue guarantee only arises in the event of lesser than expected revenues, which are mainly based on government enforcement and will be limited only to the top-up amount required to achieve the equity return rate of 17%.
In view of the favourable value for money assessment, Government of Ghana has negotiated a deal against the backdrop of private sector innovation and risk-taking. On the other hand, the state’s statutory obligation to fund a previously under-funded NIA to effectively and efficiently undertake its mandate has assumed a priority status. Unlike the situation previously, Government will recoup its funding from the proceeds of the project. NIA’s cost element, captured over the 15 years in the financial model, is therefore much broader and comprises all its funding requirements for its operations as a state entity.
Following the recouping of NIA’s cost contribution, any additional funds will further be shared at a ratio of 60:40 in favour of NIA. This constitutes a reversal of the negotiated position in 2014 by which IMS had 60% while NIA had 40%.
In addition, it is estimated that the cost-savings exclusively to Government outside the PPP financial revenue model – from identity fraud, duplicated data-collection systems, and from other state and private institutions – will exceed $4 billion over the 15-year project life-cycle.
It is clear, based on the foregoing, that Government stands to be in a much better financial position if the mandatory use of the cards is rigorously enforced across all areas of society where identification is required as provided for by law.
Other Success Factors
The database has to be complete in order to have any functional relevance, hence the free cards policy for all Ghanaians residents inGhana. This is to advance economic, political and social activities Ghana as provided under section 2(1) of Act 707. This would also enhance the formalization of the economy.
It is absolutely crucial that Ghanaians who lack either a birth certificate or a passport are not excluded from the registration and card issuance process. Every reasonable effort will be made to assist Ghanaians to establish their eligibility to register for the card. The vouching process before a Commissioner for Oaths will enable those Ghanaians who are not documented by way of a birth certificate, a certificate of acquired citizenship or a valid passport to be included in the process. Approximately 2,700 individuals will be recruited, trained and commissioned as Commissioners for Oaths by the Judicial Service to assist in this massive national enterprise. The services of the Commissioners for Oaths will be free of cost to the applicant for registration. While ensuring the inclusion of those who are entitled to be included, every reasonable effort must also be made to exclude foreigners from registering as Ghanaians. The whistle-blower, the challenge process which is available to every Ghanaian and the role of the District Review Committees are crucial to effectively policing the boundaries of Ghanaian citizenship during the registration exercise.
The Project has the right security architecture and legal framework to protect the privacy of all Ghanaians. It meets the requirements of the Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843) and international standards in collecting, storage, accessing and sharing of personal data of Ghanaians. When the database is complete, the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which have just come into force in Europe, will be followed as an additional layer of benchmark.
The revenue model underpinning the Project is dependent on the use of the Ghana Card for all transactions requiring verification of identity to enable Ghanaians exercise their rights and obligations. Securing agreed fees with relevant stakeholders and agreeing on data sharing protocols and interfaces will be crucial, and this will be enforced by the publication of fees in the relevant Legislative Instruments.
The NIA and IMS have held broad stakeholder engagements with several key personalities and institutions of state, including former Presidents Jerry John Rawlings and John Kufour, the Chief Justice, The Rt. Honourable Sophia Akuffo and the leadership of the Judicial Service of Ghana, the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, the National House of Chiefs, the Ghana Bar Association, the Ghana Journalists Association, Bank of Ghana, National Commission for Civic Education, the Service Chiefs and Management of the various security agencies, including the Ghana Armed Forces, Ghana Police Service, Ghana Prisons Service, Ghana Immigration Service and National Security Council, and the Bureau of National Investigations.
The Project partners have also engaged with the Ghana Card user agencies and cognate institutions such the Births and Deaths Registry, Ghana Post Company Ltd, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), National Communications Authority (NCA), Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC). In addition, consultations have been held with the Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Information, and the Department of Social Welfare. Meetings have also been held with the leadership of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) and the Convention People’s Party (CPP), with the object of enlisting the support of their members for the project. Similar engagements are planned with the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), and with a number of civil society organizations and professional bodies. The NIA awaits confirmation of a date to meet with former President John Mahama.
The object of these consultations is to ensure broad societal appreciation of, and support for, this very important national exercise, and to afford the NIA the opportunity to address any concerns about the implementation of the Project.