It is useful to consider the fundamental purpose of BDM, in order to gain a better sense of its core functions and main stakeholders.
BDM’s mandate is from the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 2002. The Act provides for
- the establishment and maintenance of the BDM register, and the recording in the register of births, deaths, marriages, changes of name, and adoptions
- the issuing of certificates in respect of information recorded in the register
- access to information recorded in the register.
- recording information relating to births, deaths, marriages, name changes, and adoptions, so as to provide:
- a source of demographic information, and information about health, mortality, and other matters important for government; and
- an official record of births, deaths, marriages and name changes that can be used as evidence of those events and of age, identity, descent, genealogy, and Samoan citizenship.
- regulating access to, and disclosure of information recorded in respect of these matters, and
- regulating the provision and effect of certificates relating to information recorded in respect of births, deaths, marriages, and name changes.
As a source of demographic information, BDM can provide data about who is alive, who has died, to ensure services can be developed on a sound basis. For the individual, BDM can help to provide evidence of entitlement.
The Act prescribes that every Minister of religion who conducts a funeral service must notify the Registrar of the death within 14 days from the date of the funeral service.
Where there is no funeral service, the person who arranges for the disposal of the remains must notify the Registrar within 14 days from the date of disposal. The responsibility to notify within 14 days falls to every person who:
- is present at the death in Samoa, or
- Is the President of the Women’s Committee of a village in which a death occurs; or
- Is a Pulenuu of a village in which a death occurs; or
- Is the occupier of a place in Samoa where a death occurs.
Births must be notified to BDM within 14 days, or in the case of the DG of Health, no later than 28 days (as the Registrar may approve in writing). This is done in a form and manner and subject to such conditions as the Registrar in writing requires.
The Act defines a responsible person for notifying births as:
- in the case of a child born in a health care facility or brought to a health care facility within 24 hours after birth, the Director General (DG) of Health (or Chief Executive or doctor if the healthcare facility is privately owned)
- in every other case
- the medical attendant; or if none
- every person in attendance at the birth; and
- the President of the Women’s Committee of a village, or Pulenuu, or Minister of religion
Parents are required to notify the Registrar of a birth within three months.
The Act prescribes that the marriage officer solemnising the marriage notifies the marriage to BDM. This must be done within 14 days from the date of the marriage.
Under this Act, births and deaths must be registered, and marriages notified to BDM must be registered. BDM has considerable legislative compliance powers. For example, failing to notify a birth or death by the date specified by the Registrar without reasonable excuse is an offence under the Act.