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Uganda biometric ID rollout may be hampered by lack of funds: lawmakers

Uganda biometric ID rollout may be hampered by lack of funds: lawmakers

Ugandan lawmakers are worried that the rollout of the country’s new generation of biometric national ID cards by June 1, already late by one year, could face further problems due to hiccups in preparations and a lack of adequate funding for the project.

The lawmakers have also pointed to the inadequate number of enrollment staff of the National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA) and delays in procuring equipment as some of the problems requiring expedient action.

These concerns were raised this week as Uganda’s State Minister for Internal Affairs, General David Muhoozi, was in parliament to explain the project and the timeline for its implementation, Monitor reports.

Mass enrollment begins June 1

According to the minister, mass enrollment for the new ID is set to rumble off on June 1 and will run until January 2025, with an estimated 30 million citizens targeted for the exercise.

He allayed the MPs’ fears, noting that other than the lack of funding to recruit more staff, other aspects of preparations are well on course for the June 1 commencement date to be respected. He said while the procurement process for some equipment such as biometric enrollment devices is ongoing, some of NIRA’s staff have also been undertaking training in India on how to manage the new ID card system.

Muhoozi informed the people’s representatives that of the 300 billion Ugandan shillings (US$77.5 million) supplementary budget that was appropriated for the ID project, only 192 billion shillings (US$49.6 million) has been disbursed by the Ministry of Finance.

Parliament’s deputy speaker, Thomas Tayebwa, called on government to ensure a smooth rollout of the national ID, lest the country goes “into a national crisis” given the importance of the cards in enabling access to vital government and private sector services.

Some opposition lawmakers questioned the rational behind the renewal process, but the minister of state justified it saying it is “premised on the idea that the security features of these IDs degenerate with time.” Kenya has also said the chips in its new ID cards will have an expiry date.

Muhoozi explained the extra security features of the new card. He said iris biometrics are to be added to the credential as well as an ultraviolet detectable security element.

The mass enrollment process will register new citizens for ID cards, and the renewal drive will be to issue new ID cards to citizens whose old cards have reached expiration.

Police to support ID registration effort

As the citizens await the mass registration and renewal process, NIRA is counting on support from various quarters, including the Ugandan police.

The Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) of the police says it will strongly stand with NIRA in the registration campaign because the process is vital for the fight against criminality, according to New Vision.

Speaking during a training workshop for CID officers in Kampala, the CID head Maj. Tom Magambo said “we want to make sure they are well prepared and know exactly what to do so that registering for a national ID is easy and quick for everyone.”

Ugandans told to embrace ID project

The spokesperson for NIRA, Osborn Mushabe, meanwhile, has called on Ugandans to show up massively and register for an ID when the time comes, per ChimpReports.

For those still holding old cards, he has called on them to prepare for a renewal and an update of their personal information in the NIRA database.

NIRA Executive Director Rosemary Kisembo said this week in parliament that the ID renewal process targets about 15.8 million citizens who had their cards issued in 2014 and 2015.

Mushabe said “we are almost 10 years since Ugandans registered for IDs and we are about to start the mass renewal exercise so we thus call upon all Ugandans to be ready for the exercise.”

He assured that the new ID has been designed with advanced features that meet safety and security requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which sets the global standard for biometric face-matching in air travel.


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