Sunday August 25 2013

Government suspends national ID project again

By TABU BUTAGIRA

KAMPALA

Government has halted the issuance of national Identity Cards amid reports of inter-agency fights over management of the multi-billion shilling project.

Ministry of Internal Affairs employees who have been giving out the IDs in Kampala since July 15, were, without explanation on Friday, ordered to halt the distribution and return the remaining ID batch to the headquarters.

Other sources claimed the army, under the pretext of national security, initially inserted itself quietly to run certain aspects of the National Security Information System project. The army appeared to have subsequently gained an upper hand to man the project entirely following the appointment of former Chief of Defence Forces, Aronda Nyakairima, as the new Internal Affairs minister.

The UPDF in February announced it had introduced the Integrated Resource Management System in readiness for capturing Ugandans’ bio-metric data. Gen Aronda was yesterday reported in Rwakitura for a meeting with President Museveni, but we were unable to establish if the national ID project was discussed.

In Kampala, Internal Affairs PS Stephen Kagoda downplayed the sudden suspension of the ID distribution and denied the reported rivalry between his ministry, the military, Electoral Commission, Uganda Bureau of Statistics and the National Information Technology Authority over the project. “What was being done was not a full blast exercise,” Mr Kagoda said in reference to issuance of the national identification documents. “It was an exercise intended to draw lessons on what would happen if we went full blast. If they have stopped it, maybe they have got the lessons.”

The National Immigrations and Citizenship board would have a final say, he said.
Separately, MPs on the Defence and Internal Affairs Committee want the ID exercise stopped to allow a forensic audit, including test-runs to establish if the equipment imported for mass registration of Ugandans works.
The equipment are stored at Uganda Printing and Publishing Corporation head offices in Entebbe. During a July 24 visit to the offices, MPs were reportedly upset by the poor shortage of the equipment which hosted dead lizards and cob webs.

MPs also discovered that the equipment had not been tested or installed yet their warranty expired a year ago.
“We want the exercise halted because you cannot audit it when people are being registered for or issued IDs,” said Shadow Defence Minister Hassan Fungaro, also a member of the Defence and Internal Affairs committee of Parliament.

He said the army’s intervention would remove the project away from public scrutiny, and registration of non-Ugandans would be difficult to detect. The UPDF Spokesman Lt Col Paddy Ankunda said he would cross-check whether either the Defence ministry or the army was now in-charge of the project as alleged, but he had by press time not reverted to us.

Officials say the Electoral Commission data processing in the run-up to 2011 elections was poor and contained incomplete information for the ID exercise, resulting in only 11.5 percent data validation success rate. Only 24, 707 out of 214, 700 verified data sets were found usable, MPs were told.

Recipients of the about 600 new IDs in Kampala have complained of basic mistakes on the documents such as wrong name spellings and area of residence. The documents also don’t have electronic chips to decode biometric information for cross-border checks as envisaged under the East African Community Common Market Protocol.

Additional reporting by Paul Tajuba

tbutagira@ug.nationmedia.com

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