“It is not valid, the certificate must not be older than six months.” Of course, many of you have come across such answers from the institutions where you had to submit a birth certificate and you have wondered why you need to submit it, but at the same time why you are obliged to pay out of your own pocket for a new birth certificate, which will have the same data as the previous one. Experts say that the institutions in such cases act illegally because they have no right to demand such a thing from the citizens, writes Portalb.mk.
The State Audit Office, in its report for the Office for Management of Registers for 2019, informs that from issuing certificates of marriage, birth and death, registration of a newborn and issuance of birth certificates, issuance of marriage certificates, marriage outside the official premises of the Office, registration of the deceased and issuance of birth certificates of the deceased, has achieved a total income of 36,254,000 denars (nearly 600,000 euros). All this money is given directly from the pockets of the citizens and they would have been saved if our state had provided functional digitalization of the institutions, and thus, in addition to saving money, the citizens would have saved time and nerves.
Why not older than six months?
On each birth certificate issued by the Office for Management of Registers, on the back, there is a stamp that reads: “The birth certificate is a public document with unlimited validity.” For the additional changes in the civil status that are not recorded in this statement, is responsible the person who uses it as evidence.
Portalb.mk, compared one birth certificate issued in 2010 and one from 2021 and the data columns are identical. In both certificates, the person has the same name and surname, date of birth, social security number, etc.
The only difference between these two certificates is the name of the country. As you can see, in 2010 it was the Republic of Macedonia, and now it is the Republic of North Macedonia, but still, this is not a problem for the validity of the documents, because the documents with the old name of the country are still valid.
Nevertheless, the Office for Management of Registers has adopted an internal decision not to accept the certificates that are older than six months with the explanation that there are citizens who change the data and do not record these changes and thus can do great damage.
“Every document has a stamp that the person who submits the data is responsible for their accuracy under moral, material and criminal responsibility. But in practice, this is not the case. Due to the change of names, addresses, marital status, acceptance or non-acceptance of motherhood, i.e. paternity, citizens do not report the changes in the legal system and use old data. By doing so, they make bigamy when it comes to marriage when changing name or surname when it comes to identity and the like. In this way, a series of violations are committed, which until they are discovered, cause great damage,” said the Office for Management of Registers, adding that the period of 6 months is considered the optimal time for sorting the data in the registry.
University professor, Ana Pavlovska, says that such a decision is against the law and that a document not older than six months can be requested only when it comes to a marriage certificate because it is provided by the Family Law and in no case, a birth certificate not older than six months should be required. According to the professor, this should not be done by any institution.
“If someone raises the question of the legality of their instructions, or, internal acts, as they call them, before the Constitutional Court, they will be revoked. There is no such thing in any country. The birth certificate is a birth certificate – there is no need for getting a new one either after six months or six years. You are born only once and you get a name, surname, ID number, etc only once. The same is the case with citizenship. Only a new marriage certificate can be requested. There are cases when our citizens who were born abroad are asked to bring for example a birth certificate not older than six months from the other country, and the Germans laugh. They do not have such a thing and they do not give it to citizens, because they actually do not need a second certificate… they are surprised,” said Professor Pavlovska.
Portalb.mk also addressed the Office of the Ombudsman to discuss how they assess the approach of institutions seeking certificates not older than six months. According to them, it is obvious that the change of data produces legal effects and the institutions insist on reliable data, but still, the institutions are not responsible for the accuracy of the data, but the citizens themselves, so they should not question the expiration date of the certificates.
“Since the responsibility for the accuracy of the data in the certificate falls on the individual who possesses it, and only on the individual who uses the certificate as evidence, then it is very logical and very natural for the institutions not to problematize the expiration date of these documents. On the contrary, the institutions should be comfortable, tolerant and flexible, precisely because they have no consequences and no responsibility,” said Deputy Ombudsman Suzana Saliu, adding that in the period January-October 2021 they received a total of 77 complaints related to the regulation of the civil status of citizens, but none of them has anything to do with the expiration date of the certificates.
Unlike the Office for Management of Registers which requires birth certificates not older than six months, the Ministry of Interior requires a birth certificate for the issuance of certain documents, but it can be older than six months. In fact, until 2007, there was an instruction, according to which they also requested the certificates not to be older than six months, but in 2007, Article 6 of this instruction was amended, and according to the amendments, the official performs the checks on the civil status and after that, the Ministry of Interior accepts the certificates older than six months.
On the website of the Ministry of Interior can be checked that individuals do not need a new birth certificate. Moreover, as can be seen in the photo below, the Ministry of Interior even accepts a photocopy of the birth certificate.
“According to the acts and bylaws that regulate the case for issuing personal documents (ID card and passport), the certificate is not required to be new and not older than 6 months. The birth certificate is attached as a necessary document in the procedure for issuing the first ID card or passport of a minor and issuing the first ID card to a person over 18 years, but the certificate is not required to be new and not older than 6 months,” – says the Ministry of Interior.
Digitalization – solution to the problem
“Even with six-month certificates, there can be abuses,” said Iskra Belcheva, an expert at the Center for Change Management, who said that state institutions must constantly keep up to date.
Overcoming the problem, according to experts, can be done only by digitalizing the registry books, and in that case, there would be no need for certificates at all, because the institutions would have all the data and citizens would not be obliged to wander through institutions.
“Citizens even now do not have to pay at all for the issuance of certificates and for many other services. For all services, where the citizen can be identified only with an identity document (ID card, passport), a certificate should not be submitted. On the other hand, a marriage certificate is still required for this marital status, because this information is found only in the Marriage Register. If this Registry is digitized, then the institution that needs this data could see that data in the database,” said Iskra Belcheva from the Center for Change Management.
According to her, the institutions have an obligation to communicate with each other ex officio and not to burden the citizens with unnecessary costs and documents. Belcheva says that the system has been set up, but it has not been completed with all the data on the citizens and is not used by all institutions, only by a small number.
Professor Pavlovska shares the same opinion, namely that the problem can be overcome only through digitalization.
“If we had real digitalization, then I as an individual would not go from one administrative body to another to get a document, but they would have it as a network and with one click the Office for Management of Registers will be able to see everything contained in the Ministry of Interior and vice versa. Unfortunately, this is not the case, although it has been speculated for years that these services will be digitalized. There is an application for issuing certificates electronically, but even after you receive and print them, no one will accept them. However, the real digitalization will happen when you will not be required to print the document but will receive a QR code, as it is now with vaccines, and with that code, again electronically, you will be able to apply in all institutions, for whatever you need.”, says Pavlovska.
The extent to which the institutions that issue such documents are interconnected is best shown by the State Audit Office, which in 2020 published a report on the Office for Management of Records for 2019.
The State Audit Office states in the report that according to the data in the strategic plan, this Office has a total of 8 million data in the registers of births, marriages and deaths in printed form, which should be entered in the electronic register, and be available and used for the needs of the Office electronically. By 2019, 2,462,000 data have been entered.
“Out of a total of 175 home regions, only 90 are connected to the electronic register. The Office for Management of Registers has not prepared an action plan that will determine the deadline by which all home regions will be connected and the system will be fully functional, but also there is no deadline for determining the funds that need to be provided to procure additional equipment and internet connection for each region,” – reads the Audit Report.
The need for interaction or interoperability between institutions is also stated in the European Commission Progress Report of North Macedonia for 2021. According to the EC, the coordination of institutions needs to be improved in order to improve the digitalization of public administration.
“The use of the interoperability system continues to be hampered by a lack of communications software in many institutions, and a lack of will to make full use of its potentials. Greater efforts by and improved coordination between institutions are still needed to modernize and digitalize the public administration, including for the planned establishment of an Agency for Digitalization and Registers. The data in the population register need to be fully uploaded and checked,” – the EC report reads.
The Minister of Information Society and Administration, Jeton Shaqiri, in an exclusive interview for Portalb.mk, in June this year said that the digitalization in RNM will be done through the Agency for Digitalization which is expected to be established next year and which will be the main institution that will manage with digitalization issues.
“Currently in our ministry, as we informed the public, we are preparing the law for the creation of the Agency for Digitalization. It will be an important institution in our country, and in our analysis, we established it as a central institution for digitalization because we currently have the portal, we offer some services, it has an established base, its advancement is another matter and how many services are used by citizens is also another thing, “Shaqiri said.
Portalb.mk, in the past period, conducted several kinds of research on the need for electronic services. According to these researches, regarding the electronic services, North Macedonia is lagging 10 years behind the European Union.
The digitalization of services is undoubtedly beneficial and in the interest of the citizens, the state, but also necessary for where we aim to integrate – the EU. Our previous research has proven and shown that the results of the reports, analyzes or surveys of international or domestic institutions, but also of non-governmental organizations for the administration of North Macedonia are not only criticism on paper, but a serious problem in daily life of citizens wandering on the counters for obtaining a certain document.
Obtaining documents with a physical presence, i.e. at the counters, costs people time, money and nerves. We showed this best in our research where we waited a week for a birth certificate, which can be taken out in 5 minutes, due to the inefficiency of the administration. We also witnessed a couple who wanted to perform the wedding procedure, who came across many opening and closing doors, and in the end, could not get married in their municipality, but went to another municipality to avoid months of waiting.
You can read the research stories below:
- READ: Skopje, no digital services, parents wander the counters to register their newborns
- READ: The registration of newborns in Skopje must be done again by the parents, the hospitals no longer provide this service
- READ: RNM, waiting and wandering: The path of two young people to get a marriage certificate
- PART I: Survey: Citizens roam the counters, RNM 10 years behind Europe in the field of digitalization
- PART II: The portal of RNM for electronic services is semi-functional, the citizens have the equipment, but do not receive information
- PART III: “We do not need citizenship, we have an ID card”, electronic services can remove a number of documents from use
This research story was prepared as part of the project Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Agenda – ICEDA, co-funded by the European Union and implemented by the Metamorphosis Foundation (North Macedonia), Academy for e-Government (Estonia), Levizja Mjaft! (Albania), CRTA – Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (Serbia), NGO 35mm (Montenegro) and ODK – Open Data Kosovo (Kosovo).
This research story was prepared with the financial support of the European Union. The contents of this research story are the sole responsibility of the Metamorphosis Foundation and the author and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
Link to the text: https://meta.mk/portalb-nezakonski-e-da-se-bara-od-gragjanite-da-plakjaat-za-novi-izvodi-ne-postari-od-6-meseci/