It all started as a noble idea. Every Ugandan holding a National Identity Card (NIC) that would be acceptable for elections, to financial institutions, travel within East Africa and more. A decade down the road, with about Shs240 billion spent, only 401 identity cards have been issued. Uganda is a country of about 33 million people.
Muhlbauer Technology Company Ltd was reportedly procured under dubious circumstances in March 2010 on the orders of President Museveni after his meeting with the German ambassador at State House. The company was given over Shs200b to make IDs for Ugandans but to-date, it has only reportedly produced only 400 Ids, among which is one for the president and the other for Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.
Several government bodies such as the IGG have investigated the project and last year, Parliament also joined in. Investigations and the inquiry reports into the procurement of equipment for the national ID project indicate that there was outright breach of procurement laws in the procurement of the firm. The IGG investigations in 2005 established that the procurement process of the vendor, who would implement the project, was riddled with illegalities. The probe also found that the process was characterised by patronage and in-fighting by public servants who had vested and even competing interests in the outcome.
Parliament, in its report, advised that former Attorney General KhidduMakubuya should take full responsibility for the irregular clearance of the procurement agreement in disregard of the Procurement Authority objection, the former State Minister for ICT, Alintuma Nsambi’s, alleged trip to Germany be investigated, that the business interests of Igara East MP Michael Mawanda in Contec Global, another company that had interest in the project also be investigated.
Also of concern is the fact that the ID cards yet to be issued is will use barcode technology instead of the smartcard technology that uses a chip.
A chip can accommodate a lot more information, such as medical records, criminal records, educational data, driving permits and social security data. It can also authenticate fingerprints and photographs, which are additional safeguards against forgery. Blank ID cards using the barcode technology will cost the government 22.5 million euros (Shs63 billion) for 15 million cards, amounting to $2 per card.