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Uganda new ID plans reportedly stalled; 3M current cards unclaimed

Uganda new ID plans reportedly stalled; 3M current cards unclaimed

The National Identification and Registration Authority of Uganda (NIRA) may not be able to deliver on its promise of issuing the new generation of national ID card from next year as planned, according to a report by the country’s Auditor General John Muwanga. NIRA however has replied, saying its plans are well on track as enrolment is due to begin in August.

NIRA – the ID issuing authority in Uganda – is accused in the report of not having a clearcut strategy on how the new biometric card issuance process will happen, even as the deadline it set for itself is fast elapsing.

The indictment is contained in the 2022 annual report of the country’s Auditor General as reported by Ugandan daily newspaper Monitor.

To Muwanga, the timespan between now and 2024 is just a couple of months and no new cards have been issued as yet, raising the possibility of issuance challenges such as “processing delays, congestion and frustration” due to the expected huge number of applications from 2024.

Muwanga said at the time of his report, NIRA had no clear plan on “when the new IDs will be rolled out, the costs involved, sensitisation arrangements of the public were also not clear and other key activities such as signing of contracts for supply of the blank cards, procurement of equipment and recruitment of staff to manage the exercise were yet to be undertaken.”

NIRA hits back, says plans on track

These claims have not gone down well with NIRA, which has hit back to say it is indeed ready for the national ID card transition.

Osborn Mushabe, NIRA’s public relations and corporate affairs manager told reporters that everything is well on course and enrolment is due to begin in August.

In the meantime, the NIRA raised an alarm on the huge number of ID cards which have not been withdrawn.

According to Mushabe, as quoted by New Vision, some 26 million national identification numbers (NINs) have been issued, and 16 million out of 19 million cards printed have been picked up, meaning around three million cards remain unclaimed.

Speaking during a joint security briefing at the Police headquarters, Mushabe urged all those who have not yet collected their cards to do so before the mass enrolment for the new biometric ID card begins.

Police say using ID card as collateral is criminal

During the same briefing, the police also warned against the use of the national ID card as a collateral when borrowing or lending money.

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said the ID card is meant exclusively for identification purposes and that keeping anyone’s ID card as a security is an illegal act which is punishable by ether a fine, a prison term or both, per Monitor in a different article.

Enanga warned that using the national Identification cards as collateral security had become “a habit, especially for money lenders that give out micro-loans to members of the public who don’t have security.”

NIRA currently has a case in court over what some rights activities describe as an exclusionary digital ID system. The Uganda high court in Kampala recently ruled to accept briefs from some third-party organizations on ‘Amicus Curiae’ basis in the matter.

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