Thursday March 27 2014

Corruption at Immigration will not stall the national ID project

By Pamela Ankunda

The Sunday Monitor of March 23 carried a misleading article regarding the national identity card project currently under implementation under the coordination of Ministry of Internal Affairs. We wish to share facts on this very important exercise.

For a while, Ugandans have decried the poor service delivery at the Directorate of Immigration - stolen visa money, missing/stolen passports, passport forgeries, slow delivery, congestion and poor services at the department and non-Ugandans being issued with our passports. As part of the need to improve the situation, two regional Immigration offices were opened in Mbale and Mbarara and more will be opened. But as part of deeper solutions to what is obviously a deeper problem, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen Aronda Nyakairima, had to give policy direction and guidance. He constituted an inquiry into the corruption, mismanagement and abuse of office at the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

Through the Sunday Monitor article by Chris Obore, you see an attempt to divert the probe into corruption at Immigration under a different guise. The findings of this probe will be made public is in no way related to the identity card project as the Sunday Monitor story alleges.

Again, Mr Obore alleges that there is a power struggle to control the “more than Shs280 billion to be spent in the issuance of the national identity cards”. While indeed the director of Citizenship and Immigration, Mr Godfrey Sasagah, is the accounting officer to National Security Information System Account (ID project account), it is unfair and unjust to insinuate of a fight where the Permanent Secretary, Dr SP Kagoda, has previously written to the Finance ministry in support of the director as accounting officer! This is diversionary because all implementing agencies of the project have a stake in its successful implementation under the watchful eye of Finance ministry. The writer only needed to ask for these - and more documents to write from an informed point of view. However, the Minister of Internal Affairs would be willing to investigate any issues that threaten policy implementation.

Yet again, by his own written admission, that “Gen Aronda reportedly wrote several warnings to Sasagah giving him ultimatums of a few months to stamp out corruption in the directorate”, Obore exposes the power of an existing force behind his article. Obore has previously decried corruption at Immigration, what is clouding his judgment now? Can the fight against corruption be handled with kid gloves? Has the department of Immigration performed to Uganda’s full expectations? Did the previous ID project successfully take off under the Directorate of Immigration? Hadn’t it stalled because of lack of direction until the idea to implement it under a multi-sectoral approach was mooted as the only right policy intervention, where different stakeholders are now involved?

If there are any lessons from the previous pilot project, it is those lessons that we draw experiences from to make sure the unique identification of citizens is duly done. Gen Nyakairima and the entire work team will not compromise on values of the project - accountability, integrity, accuracy and security in anyway.

The national identity card project is on course and we are more than determined to deliver as promised under the uniqueness of the multi-sectoral approach of the key agencies - UBOS, the Electoral Commission, Uganda Registration Services Bureau, Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration, Uganda Bureau of Statistics and National Information Technology-Uganda. From the lowest officer to the Cabinet and the President, it is more than a duty, more than an obligation, more than responsibility; it is a response to national honour. We appeal to Ugandans to turn up in large numbers to enroll for their identity cards at their nearest parish on April 14.

Ms Ankunda is a communications officer, Ministry of Internal Affairs.