Who’s in charge of checks, balances at Nira?

NIRA is amongst other things mandated to register national data. PHOTO/FILE 

What you need to know:

  • Why is NIRA offering a defective service? Two national ID cards later, my right thumb is not being matched to the ID, and now the online letter is not being recognized. What is the next step? 

Allow me note my frustration, with one of our esteemed government agencies, National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA). My frustration dates a few years. Indulge me in recounting this journey.  
Like any responsible citizen, when the call to register for National Identity Cards was given, I was among those who took it up.  

At the time, I was over three years in marriage, and like any proud married Ugandan, had adopted my husband’s surname. When filling in the form, I appended all the information as required. The surname I had from birth, I now treated as a maiden name, due to my marital status. 

A few months later, the ID arrived. I won’t talk about the delays experienced in getting it. Those are neither here nor there. I received it and trusted that it was a true reflection of information as collected. It wasn’t.  

Only one surname appeared. My marital name. This wasn’t a significant issue to me, until I went to update my beneficiary form at NSSF. I was informed that such a person wasn’t me. Moreover, the right thumb didn’t belong to either I, or the person whose name was reflecting on the card.   

I then went back to NIRA to correct both errors. This was during the tax awareness week of 2018. Anyone who visited the Kololo stands at that time knows the massive numbers of people who were there. Some would line for a whole day and go back without receiving any service. 

I was among those who made the cut off. From waiting since morning, I was privileged to be worked on in the afternoon of the same day.  

The procedure for name correction, is that you pay. You pay for the cost of a new ID. I endured all that, and several months later, was informed that my ID was ready, however, the pickup point had been changed. IDs had to be picked up from Divisions. 

Fewer numbers of people, but still waiting for significant hours before I could get the ID. At pickup, no one crosschecked whether the information, in my case, name and right thumb, was valid. I just received a new card. Since I could only verify the eye information, I quickly did that. Name change was successful and I quickly went home and kept my ID securely.  

As oft happens to some Ugandans, some clever Ugandan took off with my smart phone, a few years later. Hustle with police, to report the case and obtain the police letter, and then headed to one of the two affected telecoms, for a sim replacement. 

Imagine to my chagrin, after subjecting my right thumb to over ten different scans, to be informed that it didn’t match the ID. I was informed that I could get a confirmation of Information letter from NIRA, and that would somewhat help the issue. 

On calling a NIRA officer, I was informed that this service was now available online, on the NIRA website. I quickly submitted my NIN, went through the bank queues and made the payment. After returning to the NIRA website, and inputting the paid PRN, I downloaded the Confirmation of Information letter, made a print out and went back to the telecom. 

Imagine my anguish when I got informed that UCC has stopped telecoms from recognizing the online Confirmation of Information letters.  

Why is NIRA offering a defective service? Two national ID cards later, my right thumb is not being matched to the ID, and now the online letter is not being recognized. What is the next step? 

Should I go back to the same people to correct this error? Who checks NIRA? 

With immigrations, they check and don’t issue a passport if some of the information doesn’t tally. Who does the same for NIRA? Where are the checks and balances? 

How much and how often should we pay for mistakes that are not of our own making?

Barbara Kebirungi Asaba, [email protected]