Time check, 10am on July 2, at Luweero Town Council offices. Josephine Orwongi is here to collect her monthly stipend under the Senior Citizens Grant for Empowerment (Sage).
She is one of the new intended beneficiaries of the social welfare programme launched in 2010, where a monthly stipend of about Shs25,000 is given to the beneficiaries – senior citizens of 80 years and above.
Orwongi presents her national identity card to a team from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development that is implementing the programme, with the help of officials from Luweero District Community Development office.
However, she is turned away empty-handed because her National ID indicates she was born in 1979, meaning she is just 41 years old, therefore, not an eligible beneficiary.
Her attempts to try and explain that she was actually born in 1939, making her 81 years old, yields no fruit.
“I received my national identity card from the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) offices but I did not bother to look at particular details captured since my picture appeared genuine. I am just learning from the authorities here that the age captured does not correspond with the information that I have tried to explain,” she says.
“I was born in 1939, but I am surprised that the age captured on my national identity card is different. I need help on how we can correct the error,” she adds.
Orwongi’s plight is shared by several other elderly persons, who claim the information on their national Identity cards as captured by NIRA is not accurate.
More than 30 would-be beneficiaries of the programme, who had showed up for the same purpose, were turned away over alleged irregularities in their ages.
The Sage programme targets elderly poor people who lack stable sources of income, family support structures and live below the poverty line.
Previously, the programme targeted old people aged 65 year and above in 57 selected districts, who were receiving a monthly stipend of Shs25,000. However, effective July 1, the age of the targeted beneficiaries was increased to 80 years to enable the programme roll out toall districts in the country.
Evelyn Nalweyiso, a resident of Kizito Zone in Luweero Town Council, claims that she was born in 1936, meaning she is 84 years old, butinformation captured by NIRA shows she was born in 1966, meaning she is 54 years. She too was turned away empty handed.
Paul Mukungu, the Luweero Town Council chairperson, explainsthat all information captured by NIRA is official and the alleged errors can only be corrected when the affected persons meet NIRA officials with proof about their age.
“We are sorry that some of our people, who could be genuine beneficiaries of the programme, have been left out because of the erroneousentries at the time when NIRA collected their personal data. It should not be a blame game at this time because when you take the example of Orwongi, she visibly cannot be only 41-years-old. She was escorted by her grandchildren. I am sure those mistakes will be corrected,” Mr Mukungu says.
He adds that they also received complaints that some people’s names on the national identify cards were misspelled.
Florence Katasi, the Luweero District Community Development Officer, says the grants are strictly for persons aged 80 years and above.
“The age can only be confirmed by presentation of the national identity card. It is unfortunate that several elderly persons turned up claiming they had clocked 80 years, yet their respective national identity cards could not support their claims. We have referred them to NIRA so that they can have the data corrected,” she says.
Gilbert Kadilo, the NIRA spokesperson, says their staff onlycaptured information provided by the individuals.
“Each individual is responsible for the information they provide. The affected persons should reapply for change of information withevidence to support their claims. Many of our offices are currently closed because of the Covid-19-induced lockdown. However, when the lockdown is lifted, the affected persons will be free to visit the NIRA offices,” Mr Kadilo adds.
Luweero Town Council has 178 persons deemed to be eligible beneficiaries of the programme, but only 64 had successfully received theirmoney by close of last week. Each of the successful elderly person was handed Shs150,000, an equivalent of six-month pay.