By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 18 January 2022:
Mohamed Bettamer, the head of Libya’s Civil Registry Authority (CRA) denied the existence of large numbers of forged National ID Numbers. He was speaking during yesterday’s session in parliament (the House of Representatives – HoR) in Tobruk.
Bettamer said no documented evidence has been presented to his authority. Moreover, he said while there are cases of individual forgeries, the CRA’s research does not indicate evidence of large-scale forgeries.
Bettamer’s evidence to the HoR raises numerous vexing questions. One of the reasons cited for postponing the 24 December 2021 elections was a secret report by the Libyan Intelligence Services of forged National ID Numbers resulting in forged election cards. The unpublished report was read out in the 27 December 2021 HoR session.
Various HoR members leaked the content of the report, revealing that there were between 250,000 to 700,000 fake National ID numbers.
Bettamer’s rebuttal of the Intelligence Service’s claim of the existence of large-scale National ID Number forgeries raises questions over the credibility of both entities.
Bettamer asked for the HoR’s support for the CRA’s Intilaqa project which aims to cross check the CRA’s paper records with its computer records. This would take 6 months.
Responding to Bettamer, HoR Speaker Ageela Saleh said the HoR would form a committee to investigate the alleged ID forgeries and refer its findings to the Attorney General
CRA database has been subject of controversy for years
It will be recalled that the subject of fake National ID Numbers and the soundness of the CRA’s database have been the subject of controversy for years.
Moreover, CRA head Bettamer had called in a television interview in December 2020 for Libya’s planned 24 December 2021 elections to be held after his authority had ‘‘cleaned’’ its database.
The CRA’s database is used as the bases for issuing the country’s National ID Number which in turn enables Libyans to obtain a Libyan nationality, passport, ID card, driving licence, bank account, hard currency at the preferential official rate, a state-sector salary, register to vote for local and national elections etc.
The head of the CRA admitted that there were many more errors in the CRA database when he took up office and that there are still errors today, but he said they were exaggerated He would not offer an estimated figure but said that they are nowhere near the one million fake National ID Numbers alleged in the media in 2020.
When pushed during the interviewed, he had said he doubted if there were even half a million. He said the CRA has conducted annual audits and a million or even half a million fake IDs would be difficult to conceal.
Cleaning the database through Project Intilaqa
However, Bettamer said the best way to ‘‘clean up’’ the database is to implement the CRA’s Intilaqa project which aims to manually compare the CRA’s paper records with its electronic records. Intilaqa is awaiting funds from the government to start its work.
New system to be launched in 2021
Bettamer had said irrespective of receiving funds for Intilaqa, the CRA has been working for a year on a new improved system which will improve the accuracy of its database.
Ready now for elections and issue of hard currency Annual Family Allowance
Despite these errors, Bettamer had said in 2020 that the CRA and its database were ready to act as the bases for holding elections or for the disbursement of the Hard Currency Family Allowance.
Spat with CBL
With the reunification of the Central Bank of Libya Board of Directors on 7 and 16 December 2020 and the restart of the disbursement of the Hard Currency Family Allowance, Bettamer had confirmed that the CRA and CBL had overcome their public spat and were now working closely together.
He said the two had formed a Joint Committee which has reduced database errors greatly. The CBL had complained that the CRA database was inaccurate and had created its own database and linked it to an operating mobile phone number.
There had been claims post 2012 that the database was the subject of corruption when the CRA was split and there was an attempt to politicize it.
As a result, the CRA brought in consultants Tatweer who with the help of PWC launched project Intilaqa to ‘‘clean’’ the database, by returning to the paper-based records. Bettamer is now confident that the database is much more accurate than when he had received it.
CRA has remained united, received no political pressure
Bettamer had pointed out that the CRA has remained united since 2017 and denied that since 2017 it has come under any political pressure from either side of the political divide.
Fake ID Numbers to foreigners or mercenaries
The head of the CRA, who hails from Benghazi but heads his entity from Tripoli had said he has visited many different CRA local branches all over the country and across the political divide.
He had denied that the CRA has issued National ID Numbers to foreigners or mercenaries.
Civil Registry Authority calls for elections to be held after end of its 5-month database audit | (libyaherald.com)
HoR unable to reach agreement on progress towards another election date | (libyaherald.com)