Long wait for birth certificates: Cummings blames applicants for filling out wrong info
By Isanella Patoir
Despite numerous complaints from Guyanese about the lengthy wait for the issuance of birth certificates, the Registrar General Raymon Cummings is laying the blame solely at the feet of applicants who he says are filling up the application form with the incorrect information.
The General Register Officer (GRO) is responsible for issuing certificates of birth, death and marriage, and according to Cummings, there is no backlog at the moment.
“We really don’t have a backlog, because we are working on applications that were received, I think yesterday, we were at June 04 ,” Cummings told the News Room.
But citizens have expressed frustration as they continue to face challenges in obtaining this important document.
“Persons would apply for birth certificates with names and information other than their correct information and what I mean is, somebody’s parents might have told them they were born on one day but our records have a totally different day,” Cummings explained.
A birth certificate verifies one’s identity and nationality; it is also important to gain access to health care, education and social services.
For new parents, being without a birth certificate can be problematic if they want to open a bank account for their child or obtain a passport.
In the past, it was a simple process that took only a few weeks but today, it is now taking months and even years.
The GRO in September last year said they were dealing with a huge backlog due to the pandemic, coupled with the implementation of a computerised system but on Thursday, Cummings said that backlog was cleared.
Birth certificates are now being put into a database and for babies born during the pandemic, their information is now being inputted and will be printed, Cummings said.
“For babies born in 2021, they were not in the database, so we are putting it in as we speak, we are nearly to the end of 2021 and we are putting in 2022,” Cummings explained while noting that close to 1,000 certificates are printed daily.
But despite Cummings’ explanation, persons continue to complain about the length of time they are made to wait for their documents.
For Sherrion Claxton of Corentyne, Region Six, the process to get her grandson’s birth certificate took exactly one year.
Claxton has lost count of the amount of times she travelled from Corentyne – an expensive journey for her – to Georgetown to try and get the document.
“I feel upset, it was not nice, people don’t know what other people going through at GRO,” Claxton told the News Room during a recent interview.
Other persons have shared similar experiences on social media and some have been waiting for as long as two years for their baby’s birth certificate.
The News Room visited the GRO’s office on Robb Street on Thursday where scores of people bitterly complained about the lengthy delays.
Prudence Connelly applied for a new birth certificate a month ago after her current document became worn out over the years.
“I came here a few weeks ago, they told me to come back on the 23rd [June] and I did which is today, I was here since 7’o clock and so they told me to go to the second door on third floor.
“I went there and they don’t have no records of my birth certificate and I have to come back on the 28 [June] now,” a visibly frustrated Prudence related.
And like Prudence, other Guyanese have shared similar concerns, including Public Relations and Marketing Manager at the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry, Pamela Binda.
Binda expressed her frustration on her Facebook page on Tuesday and wrote: “Getting your child’s birth certificate in this country takes longer than it is to be pregnant and deliver and the child! Raymon Cummings why do we have to wait this long for a birth certificate in our Dear Land of Guyana? Mind you, calling or visiting the Office makes no sense eh!”
And those who spoke with the News Room on Thursday at the GRO’s office said the same thing – files are lost and they have to start the process all over again, and then when they return on the date given, they are being told to start the entire process over again.
“I really cannot answer for these hypothetical cases and I will tell you why someone will say they apply for a birth certificate and they are told to come back and the fact is when you start investigating, they didn’t even come here,” Cummings said in response to the concerns.
Meanwhile, Linda Fiedtkou from Linden, Region 10 has been trying unsuccessfully since October 2021 to get the birth certificates for her grandchildren.
“The birth papers are very hard to get because when you send in the applications and when you come here, they pushing you around and it is very hard with the traveling costs and so,” Fiedtkou explained.
Cummings is encouraging persons to visit the GRO office to have their issues sorted.
“If it is that you had a birth certificate and if it is that you are applying and you don’t get it, you need to come in and check because it is most likely there is a problem with your record.”