Make things simple by being paperless and providing appropriate access
Many people particularly the young people that have been living in the Turks and Caicos for more than a year were denied the $500 stimulus and the reason being they do not meet the residency requirement. There were also some young people with Turks and Caicos Islander Status who could not apply for an opportunity to get a grant or scholarship from the Government because they misplaced their status card, or their status card had to be notarized. These are just two examples and of course there are many examples in other Government Departments in which individuals must supply so much paperwork to prove their status.
I know this Government and successive governments have been talking about E Government for quite some time now and I know this will not happen overnight, but many opportunities are lost due to all the documentation that is required. Some Government departments even lost your paperwork, and you must resubmit the documents.
In the private sector, the issue continues. You can be an existing customer and applying for new services but that same company will ask you to supply the same documents such as your passport or drivers’ licence that they have already have on file. I can understand if the documents on file have expired but if the documents are still valid, why do you have to go through this same process.
When I was a student in the USA, I applied for and received a social security number. I lost my card, but I memorized my number and anytime I had to complete an application, that institution didn’t ask me for a copy of social security number, I simply wrote my number on the relevant forms. We need to make things simple in the Turks and Caicos.
Make things simple
I believe that every resident in the Turks and Caicos should be identified by a national identity number. The citizens can be identified by their Turks and Caicos Status number. The work permit holder can be identified by their work permit number. Better yet, everyone can be identified by their NHIB or NIB number. The relevant individual in each government department or statutory body should be able to access information about an individual. Of course, we must have the relevant controls in place to ensure that no fraudulent activities take place.
When individuals apply for a stimulus, the Finance Department should be able to verify the status of that individual by simply typing in that number. When an individual applies for a scholarship, the Scholarship Board should be easily be able to verify the status of that individual by typing in the identification number of that individual. When an individual is stopped on a road by an immigration officer or police office, if that individual does not have that national identity card on them, the police should be able to run a trace on them by simply typing in that number. When a work permit is up for renewal, that labour department should be able to determine if that individual NHIB or NIB is current by simply accessing their national identity number.
The private sector particularly those large companies should maintain a register of all their clients and that register should have all the pertinent information including documentation on their clients so when an existing customer applies for a new service, there is no need to provide documentation, and this will make the process simple.
I know having paperless information for everyone and being able to have all departments connect and communicate with each other can be costly. However, it is worth it and will expedite the provision of services.
It is very frustrating when you know you are entitled to certain services and benefits, but you are denied because you simply cannot prove who you are or by the time you are able to prove your status, the deadline has passed.
I am aware that the Government has mentioned about the introduction of a national identity that will replace all these different cards we have in our possession. I am unsure of the status of this project as this Government has already been in power for almost eighteen months and no updates have been communicated to the public about the status of this project. Therefore, I wrote this article to remind the Government of this promise that was made and to highlight the level of bureaucracy that so many of us encounter daily in this country.