Signatures, still pledges, not proofs of presence!

BY: Caroline Boateng
Signatures, still pledges, not proofs of presence!
Signatures, still pledges, not proofs of presence!

In the Daily Graphic of July 18, 2017, I poured out my frustration about the practice of organisers of programmes and public relations officers (PROs) insisting on the signing of attendance sheets in the article, "My signature… my promise, not presence!"

In that article, I took the position that signatures were pledges and were not to be easily appended on any sheet or document, except if one was committed to fulfilling some actions set out in the said sheet or document.

I added that signatures were appended on cheques, so they were unique seals or emblems used to authenticate cheques and documents for some access to be granted the person with that document, or some money given to the bearer.

Unfortunately, I have had to revisit the matter because two prestigious organisations in this country insisted on my signature before I could be granted entry into a training programme they organised earlier this month.

They are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

When I suggested that I would put down my name and cross out the portion for signatures, the corporate communications director of the EPA took offence, insisting that my signature was for record purposes.

She then insisted that without my signature, I would not be permitted to enter the hall.

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Thus, with my conviction that my signature could not be proof of presence, I left.

For me, there are basic and practical reasons for challenging this practice of signing sheets to prove presence or attendance.

If merely writing one's name is not enough (and yes, it is possible someone could write the name of a friend), could there not be someone at the registration desks ensuring that people are who they say they are by checking identity cards?

In the same vein, just as a friend could write my name as present for a programme when I am really not there, could anyone not also forge a signature against my name as if it were my own?
Who would know? Unless rigorously challenged, perhaps in court, no one would know if a signature by my name really was mine.

Then there are all the security implications.

I beg to differ, but I really do not know how corporate communication directors/PROs keep these sheets after programmes.

It is not even clear whether all these institutions are registered with the Data Protection Commission.

The Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843) in Section 24 (1) enjoins a data controller (such as the EPA or the ILO) who records personal data not to retain the personal data for a period longer than is necessary to achieve the purpose for which the data was collected and processed, unless the retention of the record is required or authorised by law, is reasonably necessary for a lawful purpose related to a function or activity, is required by virtue of a contract between the parties or the data subject (that is, myself or anyone from whom such personal information is collected) consents to the retention of the record.

The question then arises, if the data controller, such as the EPA/ILO is not to retain the data collected for a period longer than is necessary, how do they treat these personnel data after programmes?

Mind you, these sheets contain my contact number and my signature!

I cannot overemphasise it enough!

There are no commitments on attendance sheets of programmes.

There is even no commitment to stay in throughout the pendency of the programme, as some can write their names and sign and disappear.

The Institute of Public Relations (IPR) Ghana must find a better way around this.

It must encourage its members to register with the Data Protection Commission, so that some of us would be more comfortable when giving out such personal information.

A person must not be barred from a programme merely because the person has misgivings about appending the signature on an attendance sheet.

And PROs must be transparent and not use the attendance to balance out accounts after programmes.

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