- Wed, 05/30/2012 - 21:53
- 0 Comments
Three years ago a new driver license system was launched in Liberia. Given the security risks associated with a weak state like Liberia, one would assume that any form of government-issued license or ID card is informed by common sense security requirements. That is security against falsification, duplication, or even impersonation. Partly because of the prolonged war, Liberia lacks a credible national registry of its citizens, and a credible national repository of live births or deaths is still underway. This is why flaws in the issuance of driver’s license are troubling, potentially risky, and require immediate attention.
I accompanied my brother-in-law to the Ministry of Transport two weeks ago for a driver’s license. He was visibly excited about the speed of the process and the fact that the license looks like those issued him in the US. Frankly, I was also impressed by the speed of the service even though I realized later that he had a paid helping hand inside the Ministry who helped to push the papers.
While we waited in the hallway before taking the picture, I started a casual conversation with a young man who was next to us in line. He showed me his license which was valid until October 2011. Why are you here, I asked. “I am traveling to Europe for six months and by the time I return, my license would have expired. So I want to renew my license before I travel”, he replied. This is a simple and a legitimate use case for a driver license system, I thought.
Is the process for re-issuing or renewing the license the same as a new one? He answered yes. I was surprised but eager to see if the system was smart enough to detect the duplicate record. Few minutes later the fellow comes out of the office holding two valid licenses with identical credential except the new license had his new photo taken few minutes earlier. Not only did the system fail to detect the duplicate record, the new license issued had no relations to his other license.
Baffled, I tried to talk to few people in the office but could not get anyone to accept responsibility for the obvious lapse in the system. A week later, at Baracuda, a water pack on the Robertsfield highway, I ran into the Minister of Transport, Mr. Willard Russell and told him my experience and he simply said they are working on the system.
Liberia is developing and many of us are proud of the advances being made but development will remain illusive until our national security is properly guarded. Each loophole the government mindlessly creates through the issuance of any form of identity is a vulnerability to our national security. This is partly why the number of ‘foreigners’ passing as Liberians in search of private sector, and sometimes public sector, jobs in Monrovia is growing.