Vital Statistics Unit- it’s located on Queen Street in Belize City after being relocated from Hydes Lane. Some have labelled it “hell on earth” and a “total mess” and those who have visited Vital Stats know the stress that comes with trying to get a basic government service. One of the chronic problems that has attached itself to Vital Stats is the extremely sluggish delivery of service. The past UDP administration failed to correct these issues and now, the People’s United Party Government is focusing on reforming Vital Stats. Attorney General Magali Marin Young has been tasked by Prime Minister John Briceno to identify the causes of these problems and address them. Recently, Marin Young visited the Unit to get a firsthand look at the challenges. One of those challenges is the process of retrieving documents.
Magali Marin Young, Attorney General: “The problem we have is that persons have to go in in the morning to apply and then we have to have persons that go upstairs to the vault and check the physical records to verify the application and information before. So if you were to come in next week Monday for example and apply for a birth certificate you go in in the morning and you have to come back in the afternoon and somebody after you apply has to go upstairs and physically verify. They have to do so every time you apply for a birth certificate. So if by Friday you realize you need more than one copy you need five because immigration or the US embassy whichever government agency requires more birth certificates that have to do that process all over again; go up physically confirm your records etc.”
Officials at Vital Stats are also confronted with the issue of documents that have been destroyed by time and rodents.
Magali Marin Young, Attorney General: “We have a major problem with some records. Some records apart from being dog eared as incredible as it sounds have been eaten out, the pages have been eaten out by rats so we’ve had over the years pages for some reason go missing or you know are not legible. So by digitizing we would be able to preserve those records for posterity and I think that will help greatly in eliminating the wear and tear of those records.”
It is for these reasons and more that the AG’s Ministry is aiming to fully digitize the Vital Statistics Unit and in doing so, corruption in Vital Stats will be halted.
Magali Marin Young, Attorney General: “On the issue of corruption that has been one of the complaints from members of the public. We are aware of it we just I think that digitization will help us to eliminate opportunities for officers to be corrupt because with automation you’d be able to see how the applications come in and they would then have to be processed based on temporarily the time they are filed. So we hope to eliminate the opportunities for corruption through automation and the digitization.”