Government wants extra Shs500b for ID project
Posted Thursday, October 24 2013 at 20:35
Parliament- Even before they account for nearly Shs300b so far spent on the botched National ID deal, Internal Affairs Ministry officials are now asking for an extra Shs500 billion to resurrect the project ahead of 2016 elections.
On Wednesday, the director Citizenship and Immigration Control, Mr Godfrey Sasaga, told Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee which is probing the corruption in the stalled project that the new budget is subject to Cabinet approval even as MPs termed the ministry’s request as “shameless”.
If Cabinet and Parliament approves the new budget, it will bring the expenditure on the disputed ID project to almost Shs800 billion.
Mühlbauer Technology Group, a German Company, was contracted in March 2010 on the orders of President Museveni at a cost of EUR64 million (about Shs300 billion at the time). Information before PAC shows that there was no competitive bidding; instead, reports claim that the then German ambassador to Uganda, Reinhard Butchnolz, lobbied the President for the contract.
The company was expected to deliver 3.5 million IDs by December 2010 and at least 21 million by the end of the project in June this year, but Ministry officials told PAC that to date, less than 2,000 Ugandans have been issued with IDs, three years after Mühlbauer.
While the government has so far spent €64.2 million, of which €51 million (about Shs180 billion) was paid directly to Mühlbauer, a recent review by the Office of the Auditor General revealed there was no deliverables indicated against the down payment of €23 million (Shs80 billion). The Public Accounts Committee has concluded that this money was a loss to the taxpayer.
The Auditor General revealed in his June 2011 report that the project experienced significant delays because of what Kibuku MP Saleh Kamba, the former Chairperson of Defence and Internal Affairs Committee of parliament called “conflict of interest and corruption”.
A Daily Monitor investigation into the project also revealed that even though officials are asking for more money for the project, the key deliverables like establishment of National data centre and security enrolment, were not done. Only 400 cards out of the expected 3.5 million were personalised, of which 1,636 national identity cards have since been issued.
“The people who were involved in the National ID project should be arrested and arraigned before court,” Mr Kamba said. “Before Cabinet approves Shs500 billion, they should tell Ugandans where they put the EUR64 million. My view on this scandal is that whoever is involved must be sacked and the project advertised afresh to avoid a repeat of the mess.”
The government says the ID project is part of the National Security Information Systems Project, to be implemented under the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Internal Affairs Minister has since announced fresh registration exercise after it emerged that the data collected by Electoral Commission prior to the 2011 elections is defective and therefore cannot be relied upon for ID purposes.
The government last month ordered for fresh nation-wide registration of all Ugandans and suspended issuance of national IDs. Suspension of a project where taxpayers have sunk billions of shillings is the latest in a string of procurement controversies surrounding the deal awarded to Mühlbauer.
Junior Internal Affairs minister James Baba told Parliament that data for 5.5 million people registered in the run-up to the February 2011 general elections was defective and therefore cannot be used for the purposes of IDs.
“There is a problem with the integrity of the data for the 5.5 million people we received from Electoral Commission,” Mr Baba told Parliament. “The data from EC was not well collected. The EC data was for the purposes of elections but for us we want data where there are fingerprints, biometrics, the eye pupils, the faces but all these things are missing.”
Mr Sam Rwakoojo, the EC secretary yesterday failed to account for the missing ID kits but promised to provide the accountability to the committee.
Daily Monitor understands that at least 800 cameras were stolen, 50 laptops are missing, 10 signature pad machines unaccounted for and one finger print scanner disappeared under unclear circumstances.
Records availed indicate that the equipment supplied was first used by the EC for updating the national voters register with a hope that the updated data would be used in issuing national IDs.
However, this did not work out since the data required for a national identity card is not the same as that needed for voter registration.