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Uganda rumored to consider merging ID agencies as biometric kit price grows

Uganda rumored to consider merging ID agencies as biometric kit price grows
 

Officials with Uganda’s Internal Affairs Ministry have requested a merger between government bodies responsible for issuing IDs and civil registration, reports local news outlet ChimpReports.

The report cites unnamed sources as saying Internal Affairs has proposed that the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) be merged with the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC) to create a new National Citizenship and Registration Services. The proposal was reportedly made at a meeting of officials from both agencies last week.

Uganda is preparing to issue new digital ID cards, embedded with face, fingerprint and iris biometrics.

NIRA took over birth, marriage and death registration from the Uganda Registration Services Bureau last year as part of a broader government reform package.

NIRA Deputy Executive Director Brig Stephen Kwringira told ChimpReports that he is unaware of any plan to merge the agencies, and that government department mergers can only be undertaken at cabinet-level meetings.

The motivation for such a change is unclear, but NIRA has been involved in multiple conflicts.

Thousands of ineligible foreigners were registered for Ugandan IDs during a mass registration drive that began a decade ago. Prominent among those were nationals of Pakistan, which does not allow dual citizenship, according to ChimpReports.

The outlet’s anonymous sources also say Internal Affairs staff backed bids from Muehlbauer and MOSIP to supply hardware and software for the upcoming registration drive. If the procurement process was re-run, it would be under new departmental management, they suggest.

The contract was won by a joint venture between Uganda Security Printing Company (USPC) and the Ugandan government, with support from Veridos.

NIRA has been accused of refusing to offer the ID card production contract to the USPC.

Biometric kit cost rises

NIRA is reportedly planning to purchase 5,500 biometric registration kits with which to carry out its mass enrollment plan, at a cost of 121 billion Ugandan shillings (approximately US$32 million).

The biometric kits are now estimated to each cost Shs22 million ($5,770) instead of the Shs17 million ($4,460) estimate included in procurement documents. That change would raise the enrollment system’s overall price tag by Shs27.5 billion ($7.2 million). Neighboring Ethiopia, the report says, is paying only Shs10 million ($3,000) each for its biometric registration kits.

Uganda’s Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) was reported late last year to have requested Shs132 billion ($35 million) to procure 120,000 devices with which to carry out a national census. Thirty-eight thousand of the devices would be able to capture biometrics, and some of them made available to NIRA.

NIRA is planning to begin renewing ID cards for 25.9 million already-registered Ugandans and issue them to 17.4 million currently-unregistered Ugandans by the middle of 2024.

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