Elderly miss out on Sage funds over faint fingerprints

In 2019, some elderly persons in Namutumba District missed out on the SAGE grant due to lack of national identity cards. PHOTO | FILE

Some elderly persons in Jinja District have missed out on the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) funds over allegations that their fingerprints are eroded.

SAGE is part of the social protection programme implemented by the government under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

According to the programme guidelines, for one to qualify for the Shs25,000 monthly benefit, he or she must be 80 years and above.

However, since most of the elderly are unable to sign because they are illiterate, they are being failed by the erosion of their grooves and ridges to do a thorough fingerprint analysis.

Ms Miriyonsi Mukyala, in her late 80s and a resident of Buwenge Sub-county in Jinja District, on Tuesday said she missed out on the money after the machine rejected her thumbprint.

“Since morning, I’ve been here waiting to receive money from the government but I was told that my thumbprint was rejected by the machine. I am financially unstable and thought I would receive this money and buy food but I am going home without anything,’’ she said.

Ms Nora Nabirye, another elder, said she had missed the fund for three conservative times because her data was allegedly not captured and on another occasion because her thumbprint was reportedly not verified.

The executive secretary of National Council for Elderly Persons (NCEP), Ms Scholastica Nasinyama, urged the National Identification and Registration Authority (Nira) and Ministry of Internal Affairs to rectify the errors.

“Nira should rectify the anomalies. It is true that as you grow older, especially if you do manual work like digging, your thumbprint tends to wear out and the biometric machine used could not read their thumbprints.

“Some suffer from leprosy and  because they don’t have fingers, it was difficult to take clear fingerprints,” she said.

NCEP is monitoring the distribution of Sage funds in Busoga Sub-region.

The chairperson of the elderly in Jinja District, Mr James Isanga, said most elderly persons also can not remember their birth dates.

“They appear to be above 80s years, but registered as someone with 60 years and end up missing the money yet it helps them in addressing some needs like buying soap, paraffin and sugar,” he said, urging the government to reduce the beneficiary years so that those in their 60s and 70s can also benefit.

Ms Nasinyama said most elderly persons missed out of the [SAGE] programme because their information was not captured by Nira, while some had their information wrongly recorded.

During the payment observation exercise conducted in different areas, it was discovered that most of the elderly persons were eligible for payment but missed out on registration.

The chairperson of National Council for Older Persons, Mr Charles Isabirye, said they are working out a modality of seeing that all persons above 80 years are paid.

According to NCEP, to prove that you were born in a certain period, they have to swear an affidavit and have it registered with Uganda Registration Services Bureau and also captured by Nira.