ID cards renewal ‘intentionally delayed’ until after the election

People should not expect new ID cards before the next general election since the rolling-out process has been “intentionally delayed” to avoid linking the two events.

This will be your e-wallet and more

Godwin Grima, principal permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister who is piloting the project, said he took it upon himself to delay the project.

Besides wanting to “decouple” the process from the election, the process was also delayed because of technological developments that created more opportunities for the new high-tech cards.

“We are not replacing the old cards with new ones, (they’re not) like with like” he told The Times, explaining how the new cards would include a chip that could be used to access anything from health records to banking information and electronic tickets, such as public transport.

“This will be your e-wallet and more,” he said, pointing out that it would also replace the Kartanzjan (reserved for the over 60s) since there would be various age-related options on the cards.

The delay will allow the Government to fully maximise these opportunities to ensure citizens are given added value.

The project, which will cost almost €8 million of EU funds, is contractually bound to be concluded by the end of 2014.

“That is our only real deadline,” he said, when confronted by the fact that the process was meant to be concluded by the end of this year, and before that, by the end of last year.

Dr Grima is aware that having expired ID cards is far from ideal from a national pride point of view. However, he stressed this was the only consequence of not having updated ID cards.

“You don’t use your ID card to vote, you use a voting document. We have had expired ID cards for several elections and there have not been any problems,” he said, reassuring people there would be no electoral consequences as a result of expired ID cards.

Dr Grima said the process was almost complete and the new cards could be rolled out immediately. But since there was a “misconception” that ID cards were somehow linked to elections, he feared rolling out the new cards before the election would spark uproar.

“People will think I am favouring a party by starting the process in one district but not another,” he said, pointing out that he had already briefed the Electoral Commission about the issue.

Therefore, the plan was to wait until after the general election to conclude the project. Meanwhile, expired ID cards would remain valid thanks to legal notices which kept extending their validity.

Meanwhile, the Government is planning to start issuing new cards for non-Maltese nationals by the end of this year.

This would serve as a pilot project with a smaller population – an experience the Government would then be able to build on in the future.

This was also the most urgent part of the project since the European Commission no longer allows member states to issue national ID cards to non-nationals.

Another reason to delay rolling out the cards was to make sure the necessary defences were made against white collar crime and identity theft, Dr Grima said.

This is a particularly important issue since the rolling-out process will include the opportunity for all Maltese to correct any incon­sistencies between their birth certificates and other documents.

“If your birth certificate says ‘Marija’ but you have always been known as ‘Maria’, you will now be given a chance to rectify this change without having to go through a court process,” he said.

A publicity campaign, including an information leaflet to be distributed to each household, is also in the pipeline.

The package of legal amendments is not restricted to the ID Card Act. There are other complementary changes such as what is being called a “live events certificate”.

The Public Registry will be empowered to issue a certificate which records one’s main life events, including, for example, a sex change.

If approved by the court, this change will be logged the way changes to a car are registered in a log-book.

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