Ghana National Household Registry- Towards a better understanding of household registration exercise

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP), the Ghana National Household Registry (GNHR) was formally launched by His Excellency the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana on the 20th of October 2015.

Hosted and managed by the MoGCSP, the GNHR, when fully operational will be a registry of all households in Ghana. The registry is expected to facilitate the identification of extremely poor and vulnerable households in Ghana and thus will be the sole database used by all Social Protection Programs to identify respective beneficiaries.

The National Targeting Unit (NTU) tasked with establishing the Single Registry, will be collecting data from households across the country. This data collection exercise is simply a voluntary registration by households. Data from the registry will be used for social intervention programs such as LEAP, Free Health Insurance, Labour Intensive Public Works (LIPW), Ghana School Feeding Programme, and the Free School Uniform Programme among others.

Recently, there has been a lot of debate among civil society and in the mass media about the number of data collection or registration exercises Ghanaians have had to go through. Whilst some argue for the establishment of a National Database capable of providing data to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies that may need data in their endeavours, others also argue that existing databases such as the Census data, National Identification data, National Health Insurance data should be used as source databases for specific interventions by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) where applicable.

It is important therefore that Ghanaians understand clearly the rationale behind the setting up of the Single Registry.

As reiterated by The Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Paa Kwesi Amissah – Arthur, in his keynote address at the launch of the GNHR, the Single Regstry will provide three distinct advantages.

  • A targeting process that is inclusive, transparent and fair.
  • A reduction of the duplication of various Social Protection programmes especially in the selection of beneficiaries
  • Improved coordination among the various programmes.

All those who argue that it is not cost-effective for multiple public institutions to carry out data collection exercises covering the same applicants are justified in their arguments. Indeed, registration fatigue will set in even if all these institutions have specific institutional/sector mandates that are different and serve diverse purposes.

The ideal situation should have been a single identification database, as the National Identification System sought to do, which would provide basic identity information on all citizens and foreign nationals resident in Ghana. All other databases would then have used it as the platform to de-duplicate their individual databases to eliminate multiple identities within and across databases based on a unique biometric identifier like the fingerprint. This way, there would not have been the need for every institution to collect separate biometric data, saving cost for the nation. Also, it would have provided for each individual to have the same personal data across all databases.

Having said that, the fact remains that there are additional data that each of these institutions require to fulfil their mandate which are not covered in the current national identification system. In the case of the GNHR, there is no database in the country that holds both identity and household data, based on a unique identifier which classifies households into extremely poor, poor, vulnerable and non-poor and serves as a one-stop shop for targeting and planning interventions for minimizing and/or eliminating poverty in the country.

It presupposes, therefore, that the GNHR will have to collect its own primary data and, as such, must engage in another registration exercise. The data to be collected as part of the registration exercise will focus on parameters or variables for the purposes of classification of households and then beneficiary selection. Whilst some of this information may exist in some existing databases, the amount of detail required to properly establish a credible registry is currently unavailable.

Thus, the issue to engage our attention should be the immense benefits this new registry stands to bring. It will be the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa. All social protection programs will take data from one source to cut the cost of multiple targeting of the poor as done currently. It will also provide the opportunity for such programs to identify households benefiting from different programs in order to focus interventions on such households to bring them out of poverty, thereby reducing the poverty rate in the country.

Overall therefore, by facilitating a more effective and efficient Social Protection system, the GNHR has the potential of contributing to the progress already made by Ghana in poverty reduction.

The GNHR will require the support of all to succeed. Ghanaians must respond to the call to participate in the registration exercise to enable the delivery of a credible Single National Registry that will inure to the benefit of all.

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