Parliament has passed the Registration of Births and Deaths Bill, 2020, waiting for the President’s assent for it become an Act.
The new legislation, which is a revision of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act. 1965 (Act 301), if assented to by the President, will provide for the decentralisation of the Births and Deaths Registry in line with the decentralisation programme of the country.
Ghana’s decentralisation programme is aimed at empowering local populations at the district level to take decisions that affect their lives.
As a result, the Local Government Act, 2016 (Act 936) envisaged the reconstitution of the twenty-two decentralised departments at the district level into 16 departments in the Metropolitan Assemblies, 13 in the Municipal Assemblies and 11 in the District Assemblies through various forms of mergers.
The Minister responsible for Local Government was to bring about the creation of these decentralized departments through a Legislative Instrument.
This was done by the Local Government (Department of District Assemblies) Commencement Instrument, 2009 (L.I. 1961).
Acts of Parliament established some of the departments that were to be part of these decentralized departments as specified in the Second Schedule to L.I. 1961.
The Acts establishing them therefore needed to be amended or reviewed to bring them in line with the general decentralisation framework.
The Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1965 (Act 301) is one such legislation.
It creates the Births and Deaths Registry as a centralised department of Government with local offices in the places that are designated as registration districts.
Under the current arrangement, registration of births and deaths takes place in the areas that are declared as registration zones or districts.
The local offices are answerable to the central Registry- through the Regional Registration Officer. Registration Assistants in local offices are also directly responsible to the Registrar in the Central Office in Accra and do not owe any allegiance whatsoever to the districts or localities from which they operate.
This arrangement is not consistent with the national vision for decentralisation.
Again, experts argue that the current administrative, institutional and operational architecture for the registration of births and deaths in Ghana under the 1965 Law (Act 301) has become obsolete.
Among other defects, it fails to provide for the registration of surrogate births; notification of births and deaths by supervising professionals such as nurses and traditional birth attendants; and the use of electronic technology for the capture, transmission and storage of births and deaths data.
Additionally, the weak integration of the Births and Deaths Registry with the data and statistics departments of other government agencies, including health facilities and MMDAs are identified limitations with Act 301.
Also the existing 414 registration centres in the country are woefully inadequate, and fall way below the UN minimum standard requirement for a country of Ghana’s size of a minimum of 6,000 registration centres.
The shortfall has created service delivery deficit, insufficient data on births and deaths in the country, and ultimately a lack of meaningful demographic analysis for the nation, affecting planning
Accordingly, the new Act is intended to correct these shortfalls and truly decentralise the registration of births and deaths in the country.