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Monday, January 5, 2004

A promise delivered- Minister Gajraj opens the doors of the
General Register Office in Berbice

A GINA feature by Michael Gordon

Georgetown, GINA, Monday, January 5, 2004

In keeping with a promise made by President Bharrat Jagdeo to Berbicians over two years ago, Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj today declared open a new sub-office of the General Register Office (GRO) at New Amsterdam. Addressing Regional Chairman, Kumkarran Ramdass, New Amsterdam Mayor, Claude Henry, Registrar General, Greta McDonald, DSM; Members of Parliament, Regional officials and members of both the business and religious communities of Berbice, Minister Gajraj admonished staffers of the new office to do their duties diligently and with a high level of professionalism.
The Minister noted that it is unfortunate that such an office could not be established earlier, since Government is faced with many constraints, mostly of a financial nature. He said that similarly, a branch of the GRO at Region 2 is currently operating much to the advantage of residents there.
Added to the fact that residents of Berbice would no longer be made to bear the cost of traveling to Georgetown to conduct such business, Minister Gajraj noted that soon after becoming Minister, he was motivated to decentralize the operations of the GRO in light of street protests and bomb scares which disrupted the operations of the office especially in the post-elections periods. He said it was the people of outlying areas that traveled to the city to conduct their business who were the ones most affected.
He further called on officers at the new office to seek advice from the main office where issues are not clear, since there might be instances where even senior officials may seek to have business done in a manner that does not comply with the regulations of the GRO.
Minister Gajraj added that the General Register Office operates in accordance with the Births and Deaths Act, Chapter 44:01 and the Marriage Act Chapter 45: 01 respectively, of the Laws of Guyana and as amended by the Act of 1990. He said it is a department of the Ministry of Home Affairs whose mission is to maintain and secure the National Registers and registration forms of births, deaths and marriages of the Guyanese people and to supply members of the public, upon request, extracts and other information of the entries recorded, with a minimum of delay.
The General Register Office is organized into four (4) sections. These are
Receiving and Dispatching operations, data Processing and Administration.
The Receiving and Dispatching section receives all applications for birth, death and marriage certificates. Each application would be checked to ensure that the relevant information of the applicant is stated, after which the application is recorded in a Register and then processed by the Operations Section.
Within this section are two Sub-Sections - Search and Transcription. These two sub-sections are responsible for the storage and retrieval of information from the registers of births, deaths and marriages. Once the appropriate register has been retrieved and the necessary entry found, comparison is made with the information in the application. It is then forwarded to the Transcription Sub-Section for the certificates to be written. The certificate is forwarded to the Receiving and Dispatching Section for transmission to the District post office.
The responsibility of the Data Processing section is to ensure that all data in relation to births, deaths and marriages are recorded. There is also a Special section that deals with all re-¬registration, late registration, registration of marriages, adoptions, court orders and other clerical changes. The Minister noted that as Minister of Home Affairs, he is empowered under section 13 (1) of the Births and Deaths Act, Chapter 44: 01, by order to divide Guyana into Registration Districts and subdivide the Districts into Registration Divisions and add to or diminish the number of Districts or Divisions and alter the limits of any of them as from time to time appears necessary.
Today, the Minister said, we are at the opening of the New Amsterdam facility, which will provide to members of the public, upon request, extracts of specific information on births, and other matters.
“This Center will provide specific services to residents of Berbice”, the Minister pointed out. Those services will include:

• The late registration of births and deaths
• The re-registration of children. This aspect of re-registration arises where the parents of children who were born out of wedlock, subsequently marry. Applications are made for re-registration of the children to allow them to have the surnames of their fathers
• The processing of all Affidavits for minor corrections to the names on birth certificates
High Court Orders granting the adoption of children in Berbice.
• The processing of marriage petitions; and
• Queries for residents in Berbice.

Three (3) clerks and a supervisor who will be in charge of this Centre will carry out all the above¬ mentioned activities. Certificates of births and death provide the various Ministries of the Government and other Agencies with vital information and assist in the production of national and regional statistics. For example, birth certificates provide proof of age, citizenship, the necessary statistics in relation to voting and work. Also birth certificates provide access to certain benefits such as social security and old age pensions.
Children on entering school and when writing examinations will need birth certificates. Hence the necessity for the issuing of birth certificates to every child whether born in wedlock or not. On the issue of death certificates, these documents are used in the settlement of proof of death, claims of inheritance and life insurance. Death certificates are necessary in weeding files in relation to the electoral roles, national insurance and other social security matters. Minister Gajraj said the responsibility to carry out vital civil registration lays with the Ministry of Home Affairs, through its Department - the General Register Office. Other Ministries, particularly the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labor, Human Services and Social Security and the National Bureau of Statistics can use this information once it is collected
During the year 2002 the General Register Office issued three hundred and forty-six thousand (346,000) Birth Certificates. Marriage Certificates issued totaled thirty-two thousand (32,000), while Death Certificates issued were twenty thousand (20,000). For the year 2003, two hundred and twenty-two thousand (222,000) Birth Certificates, forty-six thousand (46,000) Marriage Certificates and twenty-four thousand (24,000) Death Certificates were issued.
He pointed out that in its efforts to bring essential services to the people of Guyana, the Ministry of Home Affairs has opened this facility. Other facilities will be established in other Regions so as to meet the needs of residents through the supply of services.
In order to improve civil registration and vital statistics in Guyana, a Diagnostic Study of the General Register Office was conducted with a view to computerization.
Further, there is the possibility that a study may be undertaken to organise the registration centers into groups within the Regions, so that a network could be formed at the national level and monitored by the General Register Office. For such a national network to be implemented and become operational, there would be the need to create an organizational unit with the General Register Office. This Unit will undertake the coordination of all the Registration Centers, both private and public, within Guyana.
The supervision of this Unit could be under an Assistant Registrar General. Some of the responsibilities of this Unit could be to develop Instruction Manuals to be used by registrars at the regional level. The Unit could also be responsible for the training of registrars. Such training sessions could be carried out within the various regions, particularly the hinterland regions - 1,7,8, and 9. While the trainer will be training the individual within his or her region, at the same time the trainers or senior officials involved in the training of juniors would be able to acquaint themselves at first hand level, of the terrain in which the residents live and the difficulties experienced by both the local registrars and residents in the interior regions.
There are villages within certain regions where there are difficulties in reaching the homes of individuals for the purpose of registering a birth or death. The suggestion was made that Community Health Workers be all appointed as registrars in their respective communities so that the registration of births and deaths could be simplified and the available statistics collected readily. In addition to the appointment of the Community Health Workers as registrars, Heads of Primary and Secondary schools in the hinterland regions could also be appointed.
These appointments may lead to a proliferation of Registrars in the hinterland regions. However, what is important is that vital civil statistics will be gathered without difficulty and residents would be receiving necessary services from the General Registrar Office with the minimum of delay.
The Minister of Home Affairs called on Berbicians to make full use of the opportunity that has been provided by the General Register Office.
Earlier, Regional Chairman Kumkurran Ramdass told the gathering that the establishment of such an office signifies another milestone in the development of Region 6. He said that the initial efforts of his predecessor, Rohit Persaud were instrumental in the final establishment of the Office. It is Ramdass’ Administration has provided a space in the compound of the Regional Complex to house the new GRO sub-office. He said this office opening, follows closely on the heels of the establishment of a Regional Rights of the Child Committee IN region 6.
The Region 6 Committee is currently addressing the issuance of birth certificates to children who were not given such a privilege by their parents.
New Amsterdam Mayor, Claude Henry was also high in praise at the establishment of such an office. He said that he is happy to be associated with this initiative and looked forward to an enhanced working relationship between the Town Council and the Regional Administration.
Henry said very often he had cause to call the Georgetown GRO on persons from Berbice behalf, to assist them in conducting such business. He said today, the reality is that Berbice has its own GRO.
No certificates would be issued through the new office. Those will be processed at the central office in Georgetown and mailed to residents of Berbice.
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