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Ugandan parliament to probe biometric ID card printing contract awarded to Veridos

Ugandan parliament to probe biometric ID card printing contract awarded to Veridos

The Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs of the Parliament of Uganda has announced plans to investigate the problems surrounding the country’s national digital ID card project, which is run by German company Veridos.

The announcement comes after committee members met with officials of Muhlbauer, another German firm that produced national ID cards for Ugandans between 2010 and 2018.

The committee, led by Hon. Rosemary Nyakikongoro, says it intends to find out why the government is investing substantial sums of money in Veridos for a new ID card printing facility while the one used by Muhlbauer is said to still be in good working condition.

“Why would the government invest in this machinery, abandon it and go for another one? If they said Veridos is printing from here [in Uganda], do they have a factory here? So it is up to us [MPs] to get interested in finding out how far and how capable they are to do mass enrolment for the IDs,” Nyakikongoro said.

Committee members will also reportedly look into Veridos’s ability to meet Ugandans’ needs.

“If the smart ID is expensive, then why would we go for it [when] we can upgrade the system and go for a cheaper one? We know our economy, so as a committee, we need to interest ourselves in the operations of Veridos because we have not interacted with them or even looked into what they have been doing since the time they won the contract,” she said.

In the press release, Muhlbauer vice president Karl Kohler is quoted as debunking claims by the National Identification and Registration Authority of Uganda (NIRA) that the printing equipment left by the company was inflexible and vendor-locked, which made upgrading difficult.

Another member of the committee, Hon Bashir Lubega, suggested that a probe be also carried into the transactions between NIRA and the former contractor Muhlbauer.

“As a country, we need to investigate factors that underpin the discrepancies between these two entities because it seems we are being made to feast on lies from either side,” said the MP.

The controversy comes at a turbulent time for Uganda’s digital infrastructure, with the first hearing in the human rights litigation against the government and identity agency taking place last month.

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