Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What is the truth about Uganda's I. D project?

Procurement looks like is one of the areas where the tax payer loses billions annual.
William Kituuka

By Yasiin Mugerwa
Posted Tuesday, June 8 2010 at 00:00
The government agreed to a Shs253.5 billion deal for the National Security Information System and fronted only Shs181 billion as the cost for the National Identification Cards Project, Daily Monitor has learnt.
A confidential document on the implementation of the new NSIS deal -- loosely referred to as the ID project, shows that the total cost contains an additional Shs72.5 billion, even as it emerged that financial details were kept away from parliamentary scrutiny.
“The entire ID project is premised on secrecy and this has created a loophole for abuse and put public money at risk,” Parliamentary Finance Committee Chairman, Gaudioso Kabondo told Daily Monitor on Friday.
“There are gaps in this ID project and the expenditure details don’t show the exact amounts yet billions of shillings are involved in this deal and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) didn’t approve it.”
To boost security
In the agreement the government signed on March 19 with German firm, Muhlbauer High Tech International that took the ID deal, indicates that the taxpayer will pay only Shs181b--- less by Shs72.5 billion for the entire deal. Details of a confidential document submitted to the Budget Committee in May titled: “Summary estimates for the Implementation of NSIS (2009-2012)” shows that in the first financial year of the ID contract, the taxpayer will fork out Shs91.56b, Shs118.92b and Shs43b respectively.
By issuing the identity cards to citizens, the government hopes to boost security; help eliminate corruption and aid in maintaining the integrity of the national voters’ register ahead of the 2011 general elections.
“This was a presidential directive and we have done all the necessary precautions, consultations and procured through a legal process,” Internal Affairs Minister, Kirunda Kivejinja told Parliament’s Budget Committee recently.
He added: “If there are questions on the cost of the project, the technical people will explain, otherwise, we need this project and shouldn’t be stopped.”
Oyam South MP Ishaa Otto (UPC) told Daily Monitor that officials at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the architects of the project, disregarded technical advice on the project design, bent procurement procedures and hurried the implementation.
No wrongdoing
But Dr Stephen Kagoda, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, denies there was any wrongdoing, saying: “Before signing the contract, we consulted widely on this project and Ministry of Finance assured us that money will be available and Cabinet approved the project.”
The financial implication of the ID project has already raised apprehension in Parliament with three committees ---Information Communication Technology (ICT), Defence and Internal Affairs and Budget Committee-- now questioning the same deal even as the project implementation continues.
Redesign project
By fronting the project as classified, MPs say it was irregular on the part of officials in the Ministry of Internal Affairs not to disclose the Shs253.5 Billion to Parliament.
MPs are demanding for a redesign of the project to include the ICT ministry which is critical to the process. “The proposal is good, but we are not satisfied with the entire arrangement; the speed at which the government is moving with this project is prone to errors because technocrats in National Information Technology Authority (NITA) were left out and have not been facilitated,” Mr Otto said. “If we allow this project to pass without accountability safeguards, we are going to have another Chogm in future.”

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