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NIA was ‘dirty, smelly, unfit for humans’ before I took over – Prof. Attafuah

Prof Ken Attafuah has said the office of the National Identification Authority (NIA) was in a big mess before he took over as Executive Secretary following his appointment by President Nana Akufo-Addo in January this year.

Prof Attafuah said on Tuesday 19 September in an interview that bad leadership from previous managers of the NIA and lack of funds conspired to bring the place on its knees.

“I alluded earlier to the very limited or abysmal level of financial and logistical support that the National Identification Authority (NIA) received over the years and the net effect of that is that the place was completely run down, it was in a very deplorable state, there is no nicer way of describing what I have just stated,” he told Bernard Avle on Accra-based Citi FM.

“Toilets were clogged, there was no water, they had dug a borehole when they couldn’t afford to pay water bills… and when the salinity in the water also clogged the pipes, they basically bought drums and barrels and placed them on all four floors of the building and people carried water on their heads and filled and used water from the buckets to flush [toilets].

“That was the situation; it was dirty, smelly and quite frankly I think not the place fit for human habitation but they were caught between bad circumstance and bad fate and, so, people worked in the building or pretended to work in the building.

“By and large only a few people were seriously at work. A lot of them were just moving around meeting the time obligation, even there, people were clocking in and disappearing and coming at 4pm or 5pm to clock out and receiving their salary at the end of the month. We met a situation where – and it still persists – most vehicles are broken down, they are still on the compound, they are on stones, approximately 100 vehicles and less than about 20 of them work,” Prof Attefuah revealed.

Asked if he thought the situation was caused by bad leadership or lack of fund, Prof Ateffuah said: “I think it’s a combination of that and I say this not to spite anyone but I think that there is also a leadership issue.”

He said through his leadership with the support of the staff, he completely transformed the place after a few weeks of assuming office.

“…Within two months of my being there, within the first month we changed the place. The workers themselves, I invited them, I met with them on a Tuesday and on a Saturday over 90% of them were ready lacing their boots and they brought sponges and buckets and soap and all of that, voluntary labour and we literally washed the building. I mean we washed and scrubbed the building, the floors, the walls and with their own funds and a little support. I remember even JOY, Jacob Osei Yeboah, that independent presidential candidate coming around and seeing what we were doing and then contributing I think GHS1000 or something. We bought paint from staff and then from our partner IMS, a donation of about GHS20,000, most welcome, and all of us contributing, buying soap and supplies and washing and painting the building and people who were there before, when they had come back after February, were surprised that it is the same place. We weeded the compound and cleaned it up, and we cleaned our minds and we cleaned our hearts and we mobilised all our energies and we decided that we were going to turn the place around. I want to turn the NIA from a deficit or cost centre to a revenue centre both metaphorically and literally and that’s the project on which we have embarked.”

The (NIA) is mandated to establish a national data centre and manage a national database, set up a system to collect, process, store, retrieve and disseminate personal data on the population (Ghanaian citizens – both resident and non-resident and legally- and permanently-resident foreign nationals), ensure the accuracy, integrity and security of such data, and to issue and promote the use of national identity cards in Ghana. It is also to make data in its custody available to persons or institutions authorized by law to access the data.

The NIA seeks to facilitate the integration of all public sector/ civil operation, law enforcement, corporate and business applications/systems to the National Identification System, and the provision of general identification services. The setting up of the National Identification System is in response to providing up-to-date data that will facilitate the nation’s development agenda.

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