Identity Malta says ID card system up to international standards

Identity Malta also stressed that the leaked documents did not constitute a sample but the entire list of individuals assigned a ‘Provisional’ ID card

Identity Malta (IM), the government agency tasked with the administration of identity documents, passports, and work and residence permits, has denied the existence of failures in its register, insisting the system used has recently been audited and found to be up to standard.

Doubts were raised about the ID cards register after Nationalist Party deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami stated he was aware of individuals who had two identity cards, entitling them to a corresponding number of voting documents.

This was followed by a report in The Malta Independent, citing leaked documents from within the agency, which allegedly showed the ID card system to have “collapsed”. TMI said the leaked documents showed 80 individuals out of a sample of 300 taken by the agency had multiple ID card numbers listed in the register. 

But Identity Malta denied the claims, telling MaltaToday a recent audit carried out by Ernst & Young and the European Telecommunications Standard Institute on behalf of the EU had found Malta’s system to be up to standard.

Identity Malta also stressed that the leaked documents did not constitute a sample but the entire list of individuals assigned a ‘Provisional’ ID card. 

“It is the full list (and not a sample) of persons having a ‘P’ ID card,” said the spokesperson. “P stands for Provisional and it caters for Maltese citizens who for some reason or other were not able to produce a birth certificate.”

The agency confirmed that these individuals do have a right to vote and their number amounts to 283 “of whom 278 appeared in the last electoral register,” with the vast majority – 276, it said – having been issued by the previous administration.

Asked about reports that some individuals had more than one ID card number, and whether errors could occur in the register, the spokesperson said that the system “has no systematic faults”. 

“The National Identity Database Management Computer System provides for double and triple checking of the data before the issuance of an ID card. All hardware and software supporting NIDMS are in line with international standards,” the agency’s spokesperson insisted, again pointing to the audit carried out in December.

The leaked documents do show a number of entries that appear to have more than one identification number associated with them. Some, in addition to having a ‘P’ ID number, also have an ‘A’, ‘L’, or ‘M’ number listed under a different column. IM pushed back against claims that these individuals had two ID card numbers.

“The fact that the document indicates that persons had different ID card numbers is historical and provides a trail of that person’s identification/ID card numbers. It does not in any way mean that the person holds two valid cards at the same time,” the agency said.

It also pointed out that ‘A’ cards are not ID cards.

“These documents are issued to expatriate persons who are resident in Malta, and they are not eligible to vote in general elections,” said the spokesperson. “An ‘A’ card holder can be issued a ‘P’ if they have resided in Malta for 20 years or in cases where they have married a Maltese person but are unable to get an original birth certificate from their country.”

The agancy added that, in addition to ‘P’ cards:

• Maltese citizens can be issued ID cards carrying one of the letters ‘M’, ‘L’, ‘G’ or ‘H’

• ‘L’ cards are issued to Maltese citizens registered in Malta after the year 2000, while ‘M’ cards are issued to Maltese citizens registered before the year 2000

• Similarly, ‘G’ ID cards are issued to persons whose birth was registered in Gozo before 2000 while ‘H’ cards are assigned to those registered after

The agancy admitted that there had been one case of a Maltese citizen who held two ID card numbers at the same time. Identity Malta said that this was picked up by the Identity Cards Unit when it carried out “routine internal checks”, adding that the Electoral Office had been “informed accordingly”.

The agency also emphasised that when an individual has their document changed, the original is retrieved and invalidated.

The Electoral Commission ultimately has the final say on “who is eligible to vote or otherwise” and Identity Malta is “not in any way” responsible for the electoral register, the agency said.

“The agency has an agreement with the Office of the Electoral Commission whereby it receives applications to register as a voter on behalf of the Electoral Office. These applications are sent to the Electoral Office on a daily basis and it is this Office which has sole authority and is responsible for determining who is eligible to vote or otherwise,” it said. 

EU audit

Identity Malta’s National Identity Database Management Computer System (NIDMS) has recently been audited and certified to ETSI 101 456 Technical Standard.

A spokesperson for the agency said that the NIDMS was found to satisfy the requirements of the eIDAS Regulation, a set of standards for electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the European Single Market.

A copy of the audit report seen by this newspaper states that “no significant deviations from mandatory requirements of ETSI TS 101 456 were identified” and that while some recommendations were made, these had been rated as “low risk issues”.

The report also states that the audit was limited in scope and time and that “more detailed procedures may reveal issues that the [audit] had not.”

The current system – “a cluster of software segments” – started being using in January 2013 when it was used to produce residence permits, after which it started to be used for identity cards in June 2014.

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