I cannot demand for an identity card when my photo has never been taken. The deal must have involved taking photos of beneficiaries. it is wrong to use data of the Electoral Commission. These are two exercises. The Electoral Commission has a lot of fraud in it. The information and photos must be collected once again, yet the photos of the Electoral Commission taken for 2001 are more than 10 years old now.
President Museveni displays the first issued Ugandan national ID earlier this year.
By EMMANUEL GYEZAHO
Posted Wednesday, November 30 2011 at 00:00
Foul smell. Equipment stolen or rotting but government wants more money for cards that might not work.
Equipment worth billions of shillings bought to make national identity cards is rotting away or has been stolen but government now wants MPs to approve more than Shs100 billion in extra funding to complete the project.
Details of the extra funding request emerged in Parliament yesterday, a day after this newspaper reported that German firm Mühlbauer Technology Group, hastily contracted in March 2010 outside official procurement methods at the behest of President Museveni, had only produced 400 IDs despite down payments to produce at least 21 million cards.
At a crunch meeting in Parliament yesterday between lawmakers and a team of top government officials running the bungled national ID project, it emerged that the firm has so far received €47m (about Shs161 billion at current exchange rates) out of the €64m project.
It was also revealed that, contrary to earlier reports at the signing of the deal, the German firm was only required to provide equipment, software and training, not to produce the cards.
To actually give Ugandans national ID cards, government will require an extra Shs118 billion within the next three years, on top of Shs58 billion the country owes the German firm, the Executive Director of the National Information Technology Authority, Mr James Saaka told MPs.
This will put the total amount required at about Shs337 billion, more than five times what it cost Kenya and Tanzania to provide ID cards for their larger populations.
That figure could be higher after MPs heard that equipment, including cameras and computers bought to collect bio-data had been rendered obsolete after collecting dust in the warehouses of the Works Ministry in Entebbe, while some had been reported stolen.
The equipment supplied by Mühlbauer was used ahead of the February 2011 polls by the Electoral Commission to collect bio-data for a reported 5.5 million new voters who had been expected to receive the first ID cards.
MPs heard yesterday that at least 30 laptops and 746 cameras have since gone missing. Of 4,065 pieces of equipment, 2,483 were still reported “present and working” while 1,582 were reported as lacking components, according to a report the Internal Affairs Ministry prepared for the MPs.
Mr Saaka’s submission that Mühlbauer was only contracted to supply equipment and not cards prompted MPs to question the authenticity and source of the 400 IDs that have so far been issued out to senior government officials including President Museveni and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.
“Those cards are fake,” Kigulu County MP Edward Baliddawa said yesterday. “Let us put the country ahead of all personal interests; what is clear in this whole ID thing is personal interest.”
Although he admitted that the project was behind schedule, Dr Steven Kagoda, the permanent secretary in the Internal Affairs ministry, said the project could be rescued if MPs approved the extra funding.
MPs, however, questioned the call to throw good money after bad, pointing out that the country had not received value for its money.
MPs also accused Mr Kagoda of failing to implement a 2009 presidential directive shifting implementation of the creation of a national population databank, from which personal IDs would be created from Internal Affairs to the ICT Ministry.
The political interference that ring-fenced the tender from competitive bidding is a throwback to an earlier tender that was aborted due to meddling by rent-seeking politicians and is likely to leave the country with a very expensive project which might not be compatible with ID cards from other EAC member states (see box).